The Red Door Stars Ty Simpkins and Rose Byrne and is Directed by Patrick Wilson
Review: Insidious: The Red Door serves as Patrick Wilson’s directorial debut – one that proves too clumsy and uninteresting to save. Loose threads and dull scares overwhelm any hope that Wilson’s charm could’ve elevated it.
Patrick Wilson is insistent that the Insidious franchise goes out with a bang. At least that’s the feeling you get as you watch The Red Door, the fifth entry into the bloated franchise that’s keeping the leading horror actor buried somewhere deep within the James Wan cinematic universe. This time not only is Wilson playing the front man Josh Lambert, but he’s also directing. His first directorial outing, and one I hoped would feel more impactful for the genre.
Unfortunately for Patrick Wilson and Insidious fans everywhere, The Red Door feels like much of the same for a franchise that shouldn’t have ever been a franchise at all. Although box office success and genre fandom would tell you otherwise, not every horror hit has to spawn sequels. It makes sense for some franchises, like the campy Friday the 13th series or the parodying Scream universe.
But it doesn’t work as well for Insidious, which has been trying to mine new ideas since the first landed with such high appraisal in 2010. The first’s story of a couple struggling through the trauma of their son felt uniquely authentic and sad for the genre, and it didn’t feel yearning for sequels once the credits rolled – even if they were preceded by a James Wan-y final sequence that left the door open for more.
And now nearly 15 years and three movies later, Insidious may finally be coming to a close with The Red Door; a movie that confirms that the franchise doesn’t really have anything new to convey to audiences. Not thematic ideas and certainly not new scare tactics. Because upon reflection, Insidious: The Red Door is missing one key component for any successful horror blockbuster: it’s not scary whatsoever.
The Red Door begins with a sequence I was thankful for – a flashback revealing that the family had the memories of Josh Lambert (Patrick Wilson) and their son Dalton (Ty Simpkins) erased. This essentially wipes the board clean for new viewers of the franchise. You could essentially go into the movie without seeing any of the past sequels (although you’d be a tad confused about the mechanics of this world).
Since the last time we saw the Lamberts, both Josh and Dalton have experienced foggy visions of the events of the original, where Josh entered “the further” in order to save the spirit of his son from the lipstick-laden, Darth Maul-cosplaying demon attempting to seize it. Josh hasn’t dealt with this debilitating erasure well, leading to the divorce of his now ex-wife Renai (Rose Byrne).
Dalton deals with this condition differently, hoping to fill in the gaps through art. The Red Door starts with Josh attempting to rectify his relationship with Dalton by helping move him to college. It’s clear through their interactions (or lack thereof) that Josh hasn’t been there much for his kids since he and Renai’s divorce. This last-ditch effort to patchwork this relationship doesn’t go well, and the two go their separate ways feeling worse about each other than before.
At his first day of classes, Dalton draws the red door located in “the further” without remembering the purpose of it or where he had seen it previously. He begins to uncover details from his childhood that lead him to the events of the first movie.
This all happens parallel to Josh’s story as he also questions why his memories are faded from years ago. He attempts to get an MRI scan, wondering if it’s a physical ailment that may be treated. This leads to one of the more effective scares of the movie, one that will be inevitably spoiled if you’ve seen any marketing for The Red Door. The following plays as a back-and-forth venture between “the further” and the present as Josh and Dalton face the predatorial spirits attempting to take over their bodies.
Patrick Wilson’s debut is a dreary one, a movie struggling to infuse this moody, grief-stricken genre work with a feeling of impending doom. The first act of Insidious: The Red Door rarely dabbles in horror at all, instead choosing to focus on dramatic elements between the broken Lambert family. Rose Byrne controls many of the scenes early on, presumably because she’s noticeably absent for the entire middle section of the movie. A shame given that she generally elevates even the weakest material.
This gives The Red Door an odd sense of placing in the very convoluted timeline of events in the Insidious universe. For being a film directed at those wanting something that resembles the original, The Red Door tries to scrape up enough of the older elements without bringing in the same characters. Dalton is aged forward ten years, offering Ty Simpkins the chance to do something new with the character who was an elementary student last time we saw him.
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But there doesn’t seem to be much characterization to Dalton beyond being haunted by his demons and surely listening to his fair share of My Chemical Romance. I was disappointed to see how uninterested writer Scott Teems’ script was in trying to peel back layers within the family. Even Josh’s flat storyline regarding his father’s experience with astral projection felt thrown in at the last minute to create one more set piece offering a much-needed scare (although I will say, that scare in Josh’s house may be my personal favorite in the movie).
Wilson’s direction is fine, but there’s not much opportunity to show creative ingenuity when there aren’t many promising pieces to work with in the first place. I thought the color palettes were occasionally interesting, but even then, there were some inconsistencies and mistakes in lighting when scenes were too dark to comprehend what was going on.
There are also significant pacing issues to The Red Door. It works at glacial speed to get to “the further,” and the individual scenes that get us there play out much weaker than they were intended to. The movie idles significantly as Dalton uncovers each of the pieces of his past, which results in the finale whimpering out in a shockingly concise final 15 minutes. The build up does not justify the climax in this one.
Perhaps Patrick Wilson just wanted to take a step back and sit behind the camera once he read where this movie was attempting to go – which would make sense given that there are long stretches where Josh is absent from the movie. This really is Dalton’s story, and I wasn’t prepared to spend so much time with a character offering so little beyond plot points he needed to get across. Simpkins gets a few moments to shine – I particularly thought he was a good physical actor in many of the practical scares, but there weren’t enough dramatic moments to chew on in this thinly-layered script.
If Insidious: The Red Door marks the end of the Insidious franchise, perhaps that will give everyone involved a chance to move onto new projects with *hopefully* better results. Although I wasn’t all too interested in Patrick Wilson’s directorial debut, I still want to see him try his hand at another movie, one where he’s not trying to tie up so many loose threads from four movies prior.
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Insidious: The Red Door Cast and Credits
Patrick Wilson as Josh Lambert
Ty Simpkins as Dalton Lambert
Rose Byrne as Renai Lambert
Lin Shaye as Elise Rainier
Sinclair Daniel as Chris
Director: Patrick Wilson
Cinematography: Autumn Eakin
Composer: Joseph Bishara
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