When released in 2010, Leigh Whannell and James Wan’s INSIDIOUS provided a refreshing contrast to the gory splatter resurgence that dominated horror in the early aughts. With striking images, creepy tunes (that Tiny Tim song!) and clever, unsettling usage of darkness and tense silence, the film ushered in a new wave of supernatural features and even went and cemented Lin Shaye as a horror icon to boot. Its sequel presented dysfunctional family dynamics as per THE SHINING to unnerving effect and was followed by a prequel with its fair share of teeth-grinding moments, and a fourth film that was more financially successful than memorable. In the recent fifth film in the franchise, INSIDIOUS: THE RED DOOR the action goes full circle as we re-connect with the first two film’s unfortunate Sawyer family who now struggle with death, divorce, estrangement and for father and eldest son, that pesky feeling that they’ve been hypnotized to repress memories of battling demons in another realm. Relations threaten to becoming even more awkward with the looming possible recollection that Pop got possessed and tried to murder the entire family.
Always amiable Patrick Wilson reprises his role as Josh Lambert AND makes his directorial debut. Josh has seen better days as his mother (a missed Barbara Hershey) has died, his ex-wife Ranai (reliable Rose Byrne) finds him exhausting and his eldest son Dalton (Ty Simpkins) can barely stand the sight of him. Middle child Foster (Andrew Astor) is given the full middle child-treatment and is delegated to go-between status and youngest daughter Kali appears at Grammy’s funeral and then disappears entirely. Maybe due to Wilson’s acting background, there’s a clear focus on earnest drama for the first chunk of the film and I gotta say, it’s a little depressing that the Sawyers somehow missed their earned happily ever after by a long shot. Things pick up when Dalton goes to art school and an exercise in class begins to recall his ghost and ghoulie-ridden past.
I gotta admit I’m quite the sucker for horror films involving artists and their creepy paintings (2015’s THE DEVIL’S CANDY comes first to mind) and the art school/college location allows for the action to expand away from its haunted house springboard. Eventually we do get to take yet another trip back to “the further” (a dreamlike alternate dimension rife with evil entities), visit with some familiar quirky characters and are treated to plenty of fan pleasing Easter eggs (for those who partake). There’s even a cool bit where this latest outing is allowed to intertwine with the earlier pictures in a really clever way I don’t want to spoil. This all may be a little too mainstream and familiar to truly knock anyone’s socks off but the film delivers at least a few fun, authentic jolts here and there. It’s all very wholesome in the end and I rather enjoyed just being inside a theater on a hideous summer day taking in the unthreatening PG-13 scares. In some ways, this family driven ghost show franchise can’t help but stoke my fond memories of the comfort horror POLTERGEIST trilogy and oh how I do appreciate that. Now, if you do go see INSIDIOUS: THE RED DOOR please stay for the end credits which incredibly features Patrick Wilson (who really seems to respect and thoroughly embrace the horror genre) and the band Ghost covering Shakespeares Sister’s nineties hit “Stay.” It’s so well done and reflects the storyline of the movie in a spot on, “Who’d of ever thunk it?” kind of way.