Insidious: The Red Door15¦ Blu-ray, DVD
For a horror film franchise to become successful it normally has to rely on an evil antagonist that audiences are so gripped by, they come back for more. That’s why names like Freddy, Jason, Michael Myers and Leatherface are household names, if you happen to come from a somewhat warped family.
There are exceptions to the rule, such as this particular series; this is the fifth entry in the series, and yet it’s one that has no iconic character causing the chaos. It’s one that continues the conceit of a family who struggles with shenanigans on an astral plane.
There’s one occasion that can bring a family together, regardless of how splintered and fractious it may have become, and that’s a funeral.
Josh Lambert (Patrick Wilson) is attending the funeral of his mother, with his now ex-wife Renai (Rose Byrne) and their three children Dalton (Ty Simpkins), Foster (Andrew Astor) and Kali (Juliana Davies).
As if that wasn’t enough going on in their lives, Dalton is readying himself to go to college, where he’s going to study art.
But when he gets there, he suddenly starts to experience things that he can’t explain. And at the same time, unbeknownst to him, so is his dad. It’s linked to their dark past, which found them being hypnotised nine years previously to put out of their minds for good, but it seems that their shared darkness isn’t prepared to be forgotten just yet.
Although there are some prominent names in horror attached to this franchise – James Wan and Leigh Whannell (Saw, The Conjuring), Oren Peli and Jason Blum (Paranormal Activity) – it’s still kind of difficult to put your finger on what the whole series is about. And this entry doesn’t clarify matters.
It’s certainly not helped by its choppy structure as a whole, with this entry being the direct sequel to 2013’s Insidious: Chapter 2, with that film’s sequel serving as a prequel to the franchise generally, and the fourth entry – 2018’s Insidious: The Last Key acting as the second film chronologically. Got that? Exactly. The truth is it doesn’t really matter, as none of them are standout titles on their own, or even part of the franchise. And yet they always do well enough to keep the series ticking over.
This one sees franchise regular Wilson making his directorial debut, so at least he got something out of it. And to be fair, he does a great job, considering. He’s clearly done enough of them, as he’s also popped up in The Conjuring franchise, and the Annabelle franchise, oh and even the dreadful The Nun franchise, and although none are classics, he’s picked up a thing or two about what makes a horror film work. To that end, there are a few jump cuts that are highly effective, which he should get credit for.
He also does well on the casting front, at lease with one secondary character Chris Winslow, played by the young Sinclair Daniel, who single-handedly brings the personality and humour to the gig.
He also manages to root the story to family, that comes together well at its finale, with a surprising wave of emotion.
But really at its centre is a poor man’s Freddy Kruger – without there actually being a recognisable figure – where characters enter a nightmare-like state to confront fairly generic forms of evil.
It is then a franchise that lacks cohesion and yet still exists. And remarkably there’s more on the way, with the announcement of a spin-off film to come, Thread: An Insidious Tale.
This entry, which could easily be viewed without having watched any of the previous films, doesn’t do much to move the franchise on – not that any of them do – but Wilson does just enough to deliver on the thrills and chills front for what is a generic horror fix.