It feels like no exaggeration to say the Insidious films changed the face of horror. From its unique way of reinventing the haunted house genre to its musings on generational trauma, the big star attraction, and the rich lore surrounding its characters, Insidious ushered in a whole new multiverse of horror. What's more, it propelled writer and Specs actor Leigh Whannell and director James Wan to new heights, leading the latter to create The Conjuring universe, the highest-grossing horror franchise in history.
And with the release of the fifth film in the franchise, it's time to enter The Further once more as we close the door on Insidious and the Lambert family for the final time.
The Red Door picks up nine years after the events of Insidious 2 on the day of Lorraine Lambert's funeral, the mother of Joshua Lambert (Patrick Wilson). It's not the only huge upheaval the family has undergone as we learn Josh and Renai Lambert's (Rose Byrne) relationship has fallen apart leading to divorce, and Josh's relationship with his three children – Dalton (Ty Simpkins), Foster (Andrew Astor), and Kali (Juliana Davis) – is strained as he has become more and more absent from the family unit.
After Josh and Dalton clash when he helps him move into his college dorm, the father becomes hellbent on getting to the bottom of what has been causing his brain fog in recent years. Meanwhile, Dalton begins to explore demons of his own alongside his roommate Chris Winslow (Sinclair Daniel) as strange occurrences surround the youngster after he taps into his psyche during an art lecture and paints an eerie depiction of a red door.
The Red Door acts as the directorial debut for Wilson and a superb return to the role of troubled father Josh, whose fear and confusion are palpable in each scene. Simpkins gives arguably the strongest performance in the ensemble cast as sullen, withdrawn teenager Dalton who rediscovers his ability to astral project and uses it to uncover his family's long-hidden secrets.
Josh's fractured relationship with Dalton acts as the centre point for a film that, similar to others in the franchise, explores generational trauma, the act of resolving childhood trauma. acknowledging your family history, and ending the cycle of hurt. Though this dark theme provides some of the film's most tense moments, it quickly becomes a jumbled metaphor amid The Red Door's disjointed narrative. The campus setting gives the film a fresh new angle to work with but its potential is never fully explored.
Whilst having Josh and Dalton's stories slowly collide from two separate locations works as a metaphor for their distance in real life, the narrative begins to feel aimless as the horror becomes increasingly disjointed. There are a few real dread-inducing scares in The Red Door that showcases Wilson's detailed understanding of the genre, including a claustrophobic's worst nightmare in an MRI machine. However, many feel more centred around loud noises and knee-jerk reactions than any real tension-building, though Wilson compensates for this in the cinematography which helps create the film's brooding look, with desaturated colours and lashings of red throughout.
For fans of the franchise, there are plenty of references to past films – Dalton's love of drawing returns, seen in the first film, and there are also appearances from Specs and Tucker (Angus Sampson) in a humorous instructional video – as well as the terrifying return of the iconic Lipstick Demon (Joseph Bishara), now less Darth Maul and more the thing of nightmares. Many films lose their way in a pool of nostalgic references, but The Red Door's self-referential elements feel natural in their setting and aid the authenticity of the universe they reside in.
Though The Red Door often leans too heavily on tried and tested jump scares that do little to create tension, the film feels like a satisfying conclusion to the Lambert family saga nonetheless, as loose ends are tied up and one final blast from the past ends the film on a high. The setting and storyline would benefit from more care and attention, but when Wilson focuses on the horror of Insidious, his passion for the franchise shines through the dark and dreary world he helms.
Insidious: The Red Door was released in cinemas in the UK on July 7.