Remember when your dad tried to hit you with a hammer? No? Then you are probably Dalton Lambert, the eldest child of Josh Lambert, who we originally met back in 2010’s Insidious. The follow-up film, aptly named Chapter 2; could be seen as the high point of the Insidious franchise considering its box office success. Blumhouse would continue making new films in the franchise afterwards, but without the ongoing connection to the Lambert family. (The 3rd and 4th movies are both prequels.) So, in a summer where it seems like too many great movies are getting released; can Insidious: The Red Door bring the franchise back from The Further? It’s possible.
The fifth film in the franchise, Insidious: The Red Door, is a true sequel to Chapter 2. It takes place ten years later (which checks out with the release schedule and the ages of the actors involved.), where Dalton is moving away from home for the first time and living out his freshman year of college. We get to meet his roommate Chris Winslow, who provides light humor to a film that’s soaked in family drama and the paranormal. We also get to see conversations between Dalton and his younger brother Foster, which adds a bit of context to how this family has been holding up during the last decade.
The heart of the film, though, like any good horror, is not only the frights (plenty of those!) but also the weight of the problems at hand. Patrick Wilson reprises his role as Josh, Dalton’s father. (He also tries his hand at directing, but we will get to that in a moment.) During a vision, he learns about a figure from his past. With new information, Josh and his son Dalton finally look to resolve their figurative and literal demons once and for all.
Insidious: The Red Door begins gracefully. If you haven’t seen any movies in the franchise, don’t be afraid to jump in because the setup gives viewers enough information through conversations, chalk drawings, and a few other “show, not tell” methods. I found it relieving as I haven’t visited one of these films in a while and didn’t have time for a refresher before my screening. It allowed me to have fun with the film right away. There are some fantastic cameos and easter eggs for long-time fans, and we get some quality time with all of the right characters from the first two films.
By the film’s end, I felt satisfied. If this is where Blumhouse decides to leave the Lambert family I think they did a fantastic job in closing that chapter. Of course, there are more Insidious stories to tell, and at least two films have already been greenlit, but I don’t think they need to come back to these particular characters. Patrick Wilson can now make a clean move from in front of the camera to behind the camera for this franchise…what a transition!
Wilson stepped in as a first-time director, and I never felt like this movie missed a beat. There are some funky moments where I asked what was real and what was in The Further; the astral plane in which Dalton and his father can visit, but otherwise, I suspended my disbelief joyfully. Of course, Wilson had films to reference, and he never really steers away from what works with the series. The color grading change from our world to The Further feels formulaic, but why change something that works so well right? I’d love to see him as a director on something new that already doesn’t have a history to it.
I don’t know if I’d consider him fully capable because I didn’t see “his version” of this film. It feels like this was a safe first film to direct. I can say the same for writer Scott Teems, who took over screenplay duties for Leigh Whannell, the writer for every film up to this point. Whannell still helped develop the story and was a producer on the film, so nothing ever strays too far from what you’d expect with Insidious. Teems may have added some more emotional and heartfelt moments, but the style of dialogue and scares all felt in line with the franchise’s prior films.
It would be a shame if, like other films this summer, Insidious: The Red Door becomes a film most wait to see when it begins streaming at home because its visual scares really do pop on the big screen, and more importantly, the sound design of this movie is meant to be heard in a 360-degree environment. While fearing for our protagonists I was consistently startled by noises to me, left or right, or even behind me. Certain moments overwhelm the senses, like Josh’s trip to get an MRI, while other moments work best in dead silence with the lights out.
Overall, I do think this film is worth seeing in a theater if you are a fan of the previous films in the franchise. The fifth film delivers some of the best scares and emotions of the entire Insidious run. It has something for first-time viewers and long-time fans. Whatever you decide to do though, don’t leave your body behind for too long.
Insidious: The Red Door is in theaters nationwide beginning July 7th, 2023.
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