A lot has changed for Josh Lambert (Patrick Wilson). At the end of Insidious 2, he and son Dalton (Ty Simpkins) had all memories of their supernatural ordeal suppressed. That has caused significant problems. Josh and wife Renai (Rose Byrne) are divorced thanks to his erratic behavior, and his relationship with the now college freshman is strained. Father and son both begin having strange dreams after Dalton paints an ominous red door during art class. Since neither can remember the past, they must individually try to figure out what’s going on.
There is exactly one great scare in Insidious: The Red Door. It comes when Josh gets trapped inside an MRI machine with an otherworldly creature (or at least a hallucination of one). It’s tense, uncomfortable, and creepy. That scene arrives about 20 minutes into the film, and everything goes downhill from there. The other scare moments are cliches. A demon pukes ooze all over a character. Entities abruptly appear behind or next to somebody. Lights flicker and doors slam. Jumping at any of them is impossible because by now we know what to expect and when to expect it. The rhythm is overly familiar.
Inside the tired horror mayhem is a potentially interesting angle pertaining to the fractured state between Josh and Dalton. Writer Leigh Wannell attempts to create a story about what fathers pass down to their children and how that can be good or bad, depending upon the circumstances. Wilson and Simpkins get a few nice moments from that, but the idea becomes muddied by a confusing finale in which they once again wander around the foggy “Further” carrying lanterns. In other words, an ending similar to the film’s predecessors.
Patrick Wilson makes his directorial debut here. He does better with the character-based scenes than with those requiring terror. In the middle of the story is a funny sequence where Dalton and his roommate Chris (Sinclair Daniel) attend a frat party with the goal of making fun of the brothers, only to get more ammunition than they expected. Sections like that are pulled down by the movie’s need to force in a couple people from the prior Insidious chapters for obligatory cameos.
Fans of the franchise who just want to see how it ends may not be terribly bothered by the elements that don’t work. Pull back a bit and seeing the big picture becomes easy: the original was thrilling, whereas Insidious: The Red Door is simply going through the motions.
out of four
Insidious: The Red Door is rated PG-13 for violence, terror, frightening images, strong language, and suggestive references. The running time is 1 hour and 47 minutes.