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Insidious: The Red Door (film, 2023)

I greatly enjoyed how the first two Insidious movies creepily explored the concepts of astral projection and "the further." They accomplished the rare feat of being genuinely scary while telling emotional family stories.

When I learned Patrick Wilson, who starred in the early films, was making his directorial debut with the fifth installment, I thought the franchise was in good hands.

However, "The Red Door" misses the mark from the beginning.

spoiler alert

The gripping sense of dread and mystery that made the first films so effective is absent here. We open with a somber funeral that feels more like a perfunctory exposition to set up character beats rather than subtly hooking the audience.

Immediately, I got the impression this film wouldn't capture the nuances that made the franchise resonate with me previously. My suspicions were confirmed as the story progressed, and we learn Josh Lambert (Patrick Wilson) is divorced from his wife and estranged from his now-adult son, Dalton (Ty Simpkins). The two drive Dalton to college in an awkward scene that exposes the stilted, unnatural dialogue throughout the film.

Their strained relationship is never compellingly explored, merely serving as a thin throughline. Once at college, Dalton meets his quirky new roommate, Chris (Sinclair Daniel), in a painfully unfunny sequence that feels like it was written by someone who has never interacted with teens.

Chris becomes annoyed, constantly cracking jokes that undermine attempts at an eerie atmosphere. Ty Simpkins fails to command attention as the nondescript lead. His bland presence doesn't carry emotional weight or generate interest. Patrick Wilson, who always shone as an actor in the series, provides one of his weakest performances here that feels sadly disconnected. None of the new or familiar characters are multidimensional or leave a lasting impression.

Just as the characters lack depth, so too does the script.

The story meanders through incoherent plot turns and relies too heavily on rehashing familiar lore instead of exploring new ground. With shocking predictability, we learn Josh and Dalton can astral project again and must face threats from the further. But this retread of previous films raises more questions than answers.

Perhaps most damning is how much of a failure "The Red Door" proves in its sole duty as a horror film. Patrick Wilson proves adept behind the camera but lacks skill with pace and tension. Overlong dialogue scenes bleed into one another with no rhythmic progression. When scares occur, they appear laughably obvious and lack visceral punch. A woefully incompetent script ensures characters behave foolishly, breaking the suspension of disbelief. Genuine moments that could unsettle are undercut by crude jokes or ridiculous plot points.

The final confrontation proves anticlimactic and devoid of jeopardy. The sole tactic appears to be rushing to the end without care for fulfillment. Wilson likely rushed into directing before adequately honing his skills at tight pacing, script development, or coaxing natural performances out of his cast.

As a dedicated horror buff, I'm willing to forgive imperfections if a movie brings new insights or expands compelling narratives. Unfortunately, "The Red Door" represents an unimaginative rehash that introduces no fresh perspectives while disrespecting its own mythology.

I cannot recommend subjecting yourself to this bore. I give it a harsh 2/5 and cannot foresee myself ever needing to revisit its frustrating missteps. The Insidious name deserved a swan song befitting its prominence in the genre - instead, this made me lament its squandered promise.

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