In 2004, James Wan and Leigh Whannell created a decade-defining horror franchise with Saw. Six years later, the duo collaborated once again for Insidious, which became one of two horror franchises that defined the 2010s. The other new movies in that equation? That would be The Conjuring, also directed by James Wan. Shit this guy is good.
Insidious has become a hugely successful franchise, with Insidious 2 serving as a direct sequel and the two movies since then focusing on the medium Elise (Lin Shaye). Now, the Insidious 5 release date is here, and we’re back in the present day for the fifth movie, The Red Door.
Patrick Wilson is in the director’s chair for his debut behind the camera, with franchise veteran Whannell retaining a “story by” credit. As a showcase for things going bump in the night very loudly indeed, it gives you pretty much everything you could possibly want.
Astral projector Dalton (Ty Simpkins) is now heading off to college. His dad, and fellow out-of-body traveler, Josh (Patrick Wilson), is experiencing major brain fog and has become estranged from his wife Renai (Rose Byrne). The reason for that brain fog? He and Dalton were hypnotized a decade ago, for their own good, in order to forget their experiences in The Further and their dangerous ability to travel there.
Of course, that doesn’t mean the demons are finished with them. It would be a short film if they were, after all. Josh is seeking help for his cognitive problems, while Dalton’s art classes seem to be unlocking memories of the titular red door – a gateway to the deepest reaches of The Further. Soon, Dalton’s new college buddy Chris (Sinclair Daniel) is wrapped up in it all as well.
Wilson has clearly spent a lot of time over the last few years using his front-row seat on horror sets to study the work of Wan and Whannell. The scare sequences in Insidious 5 are calibrated beautifully, knowing when to let a mysterious shadow or shape move in silence at the corner of the frame and when to crank up Joseph Bishara’s score to eardrum-shattering volume.
Sure, subtlety is great, but so is hitting the audience in the face with a jump scare sledgehammer. There’s room in the best horror movies for both approaches, and Wilson deserves credit for delivering some really thought-out ghost train sequences in his directorial debut.
Things are less sure-footed on the story front, with our central characters kept separate for almost the entire running time. Even an emotional climactic reunion happens via a phone call. As a metaphor for family secrets pushing people apart, it lands fairly well in the early stages, but it leaves the second half feeling a little unfocused, and there’s a missed opportunity to amplify the togetherness of the finale.
There’s also not nearly enough of Sinclair Daniel, who is an MVP as the new addition to the Insidious cast. She gets the lion’s share of the best lines in Scott Teems’ script and brings a real energy that serves as a useful, lighter counterpoint to the deliberately morose work being done by Wilson and Simpkins. If they’re ever looking for a slightly different direction to take the franchise, she’d be a great protagonist.
In common with the majority of the Insidious movies, The Red Door is stronger before it ventures into The Further than when it passes through the threshold into the darker realm. Fans of the first movie will find plenty of references to enjoy – Lipstick-Face Demon has got a design glow-up for one – but Wilson definitely plays it safe when it comes to the ghost train potential of the other side.
And, in many ways, that sums up Insidious 5 as a whole. It’s an efficient and enjoyable spookfest of the scare-by-numbers variety, but it never reaches beyond the well-worn menu of what the franchise has already served up over the years. It’s an enjoyable dish, but it definitely could’ve been spicier.
For more on James Wan’s world of horror, find out how to watch the Insidious movies in order and how to watch The Conjuring movies in order. You can also learn about the people who bought The Conjuring house for a lot of money. We’ve also delved into the Conjuring 2 true story for some very real scares.
Elsewhere, you can check out our guide to The Conjuring 4 release date and the Saw 10 release date, as well as learn about the best movies for horror fans, including the best ghost movies and the best zombie movies.
Insidious fans will be thrilled by this fifth installment, and there are enough jumps and jolts to make it worth a cinema trip. But after more than a decade, we wish they’d gone Further.