Breaking Down the Ending of Insidious: The Red Door

10 minute read

Warning: This post contains spoilers for Insidious: The Red Door

The Lambert family is back in Insidious: The Red Door—and they’re a bit worse for wear. The new film, in theaters now, is the fifth installment in the Insidious series and a direct sequel to 2013’s Insidious: Chapter 2. It’s also the directorial debut of Insidious star and scream king Patrick Wilson, who returns to the franchise after sitting out the subsequent prequel films, 2015’s Insidious: Chapter 3 and 2018’s Insidious: The Last Key.

Where does Insidious: The Red Door pick up?

The first two movies in the supernatural horror franchise, which made its debut in 2010, focused on Josh Lambert (Wilson) and his ten-year-old son, Dalton (Ty Simpkins), both of whom have the power to connect with the spirit world through astral projection. As a kid, Dalton described these out-of-body experiences as being able to watch himself sleep. He and his dad are able to leave their physical bodies while sleeping to travel into what Insidious’s resident demonologist (and star of Insidious 3 and 4) Elise Rainier (played by Lin Shaye) refers to as “The Further,” a shadowy dimension between heaven and hell where the most dangerous supernatural demons live. These monsters, which Elise nicknamed “parasites,” feed on the living. The further Josh and Dalton travel into the Further, the harder it is to come back alive.

When Josh travels deep into the Further in Insidious to save Dalton, his body is taken over by a demon that kills Elise and nearly murders the entire Lambert family. In Insidious: Chapter 2, it’s Dalton who saves his dad by traveling to the depths of the spiritual realm—but it takes a toll on the family. In the final moments of the second Insidious film, the father and son choose to forget everything that happened to them in hopes of living a normal life. Unfortunately, forgetting their astral projecting abilities and the horrors that came with it has left the two feeling disconnected from themselves and one another.

Insidious: The Red Door picks up nine years after the events of Insidious: Chapter 2 on the day of Josh’s mother Lorraine’s funeral. Josh and his wife Renai (Rose Byrne) are now separated and he’s struggling to connect with his three kids, specifically Dalton, who is headed off to college and feels resentful toward his wayward dad. At the urging of his new friend Chris (Sinclair Daniel), Dalton begins to question parts of his childhood that he cannot recall. His family has told him he spent the year he was 10-years-old in a coma due to a bacterial infection, but Dalton has always been confused as to why he has no memory of that time. His dad also is having trouble remembering the facts of their shared past. In actuality, Dalton wasn’t in a medically induced coma; his physical body had been possessed by a parasite, while his consciousness was trapped behind the Red Door.

Ty Simpkins in Screen Gems Insidious: The Red Door
Ty Simpkins in 'Insidious: The Red Door'Courtesy of Screen Gems

What is the Red Door?

The Red Door is introduced in the first Insidious film through young Dalton’s drawings, which are his way of making sense of what he thinks are nightmares, but are, in fact, the result of his spirit walks. The Red Door is the barrier between the Further and a place even further beyond the world of the living, where the most tormented souls exist. It is also the entryway to the lair of the powerful Lipstick-Face Demon that Dalton refers to as “the man with the fire in his face.” In Insidious, Dalton is trapped there and only escapes thanks to his dad, who is able to pry his son away from the red-faced demon, but fails to seal the door behind him, giving the demon continued access to their world.

The Red Door pops up in the new film, again via a now-teenage Dalton’s drawings, after his art teacher (Succession’s Hiam Abbass) encourages him to dig into his subconscious for inspiration. The door becomes the key to unlocking the memories Dalton and his dad swore to forget years ago. But without the proper context, the memories only confuse Dalton more. He finds himself drawing the Red Door once again, but this time, there is a man standing in front of it holding a hammer. At first, the mystery man’s face is hard to make out, but Dalton soon realizes that he has been drawing his dad, whose face looks a little off in the image. As if there is another face, a more sinister one, projected on top of it.

Through astral projection, Dalton is able to go back a decade earlier to the moment when his dad tried to kill him and the rest of the family. Those who have seen Insidious: Chapter 2 know that it wasn’t really Josh who terrorized Dalton all those years earlier. Josh’s body had been co-opted by the tormented soul of Parker Crane, a serial killer known as “The Bride in Black,” who killed young women while dressed as a woman himself. (Parker’s face is the other face that appears in Dalton’s painting of his father.) Josh’s soul was trapped in the Further looking for a way to get home. In Insidious: Chapter 2, it’s Dalton who finds his dad and brings him back to the real world. But Dalton doesn’t remember the truth, he’s been trained not to, and this disturbing image has tainted his vision of his dad, who is struggling with his own daddy issues.

Who is Ben Burton?

In Insidious 2 it’s revealed that Josh had the ability to astral project at a very young age. His travels led him to pick up a dangerous parasite that followed him around for years until his mom Lorraine (played by Barbara Hershey) called in Elise to help him forget his power. He is forced to remember this only after Dalton is possessed by his own demon. However, it is unclear how Josh came upon the gift that feels more like a curse, until Insidious: The Red Door. Throughout the Insidious films, Josh talks about how hard it was for his mom to be a single parent, implying that his dad abandoned them. In this film, Josh discovers that, in the late ‘70s, his late dad, Ben Burton, spent time in a mental institution for what was believed to be schizophrenia. Looking through his dad’s file, Josh discovers that Ben claimed he could astral project, but Lorraine didn’t know how to help him. Ben would take his own life before Josh was born and in the note he left Lorraine, he wrote, “This ends with me.”

Since Josh doesn’t remember that he has the ability to astral project he assumes that his dad ended his own life in order to protect his son from the consequences of his mental illness. After a run-in with his dead dad in one of the movie’s best jump scares, Josh assumes he is also suffering from schizophrenia. It isn’t until Renai tells Josh about his abilities that he realizes his dad was trying to protect him from the supernatural demons that lurk in the shadows. Now it’s his turn to protect his own son from those same dark entities, hopefully finishing what Ben started.

Ty Simpkins (Finalized)
Ty Simpkins in 'Insidious: The Red Door'Courtesy of Screen Gems

How does Insidious: The Red Door end?

After Dalton is told by the ghost of a co-ed who died in the frat house that he must “close the door,” he believes that he must shut the Red Door for good in order to save himself and those he loves from the parasitic demons looking to hitch a ride out of the Further. But he can’t do it alone.

After Dalton’s physical body is possessed by the red-faced demon he once again finds himself trapped in the supernatural baddie’s lair in a scene that mirrors the original Insidious sequence (right down to the unsettling “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” music sync). Once again, he’s unable to escape without his dad’s help. Josh is able to travel beyond the Red Door and frees his son, but the red-faced demon isn’t willing to let Dalton just walk away. In order for Dalton to safely escape the Further, Josh must use his body to block the Red Door, sacrificing himself for his son, not unlike what his own dad did. Josh is not strong enough to keep the demon from escaping, but Dalton is able to close the Red Door from his dorm room. He paints the red door he drew shut with layers of thick black paint, keeping the demon from escaping into the human realm. Hopefully, forever (or until someone decides to relaunch the Insidious franchise).

At that moment, it appears that Josh has been saved by his son, but he’s now trapped in the Further, unable to find his way back home. But Josh isn’t alone; Ben appears with a lantern to help his son light the way back to the physical world, back to his family. Josh’s relationship with his dad is complicated, but in this moment, he realizes that all his dad has wanted is to protect him. Though Ben believed he had to die to do so, Josh doesn’t have to do the same. By reconnecting with Josh in the spirit realm, Ben is no longer a tortured soul. He’s able to continue his afterlife journey knowing he has done what he originally set out to do.

This encounter with his dad makes Josh realize that there can be no more forgetting, he has to embrace who he is. That may be why in the final moments of the film he’s able to see Elise, who died in the final moments of Insidious at the hands of Josh whose body had been co-opted by “The Bride in Black.” In Chapter 2, Elise reveals that she can safely cross between realms, even returning to the human world if she chooses. She has returned this time to let Josh know that he will reconnect with his mom one day in the afterlife, but he has a lot of life still to live. Josh doesn’t remember Elise (those memories appear to still be buried deep in his subconscious) but when she disappears he doesn’t seem surprised or scared. It’s a sign that he is still connected to the spirit realm, but may finally be free from the parasites that once plagued him.

Dalton also seems happier than he’s ever been, trading in his grunge-inspired attire for something more preppy. He’s still painting, but his latest works are far less dark. When Dalton first arrives at his college dorm early in the film he hangs the drawings he has made of his mom, his brother, and his grandma, but his dad doesn’t earn a spot. It was a punch in the gut for Josh, who was trying to connect with his son. But in the final moments of Insidious: The Red Door, Dalton reveals his latest painting, a once repressed memory (and a screengrab from Insidious: Chapter 2) that has come to the forefront: his dad carrying him out of the Further a decade earlier.

It’s unclear if Dalton understands what he has drawn, but he no longer fears his father. Instead, he paints him as the hero of this story. A fitting end to a franchise that showed how far a father would go to protect his son from inheriting someone else’s demons.

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