Insidious – A Grandma Steals The Show

We marathoned the Insidious horror movie saga with my friends before going to see the latest installment, Insidious: The Red Door. I thought I would write some of my thoughts about the movie series. This post isn’t really a review, but I’m going to give my opinion on each film in the series and rank them. A word of warning: the text will be pretty much stream of consciousness, because I just want to get my opinion on the series out. This post will contain spoilers. A lot of them.

Why hello there Darth Maul. Or…


Let’s quickly introduce the plot of the series per movie. In the first part of the series, Insidious, a family moves to a new house. The family’s son, Dalton, encounters something on the attic and begins to see strange things. After some time, he falls into a coma. Parents Josh and Renai have been taking care of the coma kid for years, when suddenly strange things start happening in the house. The assumption is that the house is haunted, but this is not the case. Even the parents think so, but when moving yet again to a new house, the strange events continue. They call in local ghostbusters, who find evidence of paranormal activity. After that, a savior is called on the scene… A grandma, Elise. The grandma in question is the most important character in the series. At least according to the makers of the movie.

Elise tells about another world that only people who know how to do astral projection can access. And for some reason, Elise also can access that place, because she has seen supernatural things all her life. The father of the family, Josh, has been an astral projector in his youth, but his mother has erased the boy’s memories with the help of Elise. This was done because the other world contains dead spirits, and often these spirits are dangerous.

The elite of the astral world.

The first movie ends with a pretty basic way. Dalton, the comatose boy, has inherited the art of astral projection and has accidentally flown to another world, where a demon is holding him prisoner with the goal of eventually taking over the boy’s body. Father John remembers how to astral project again and goes to get his son. At the end, however, it is revealed that the evil spirit that tormented John in his childhood is traveling with him, and murders Elise. Yes, I mentioned earlier that Elise is the most important character in the series. And she just died in the first part. You can still see her quite a lot in the sequels.

Then we get to the second part, which has a really imaginative name Insidious: Chapter 2. The movie in question deals with Josh’s childhood, while in the present day, strange things happen again in the family’s house. You don’t even need to know about the background of Josh’s childhood haunting, because they don’t matter to the larger story. You just need to know that the same spirit that tormented Josh as a child took over his body during Dalton’s rescue attempt. In the movie, the father bullies his family and in the end Dalton goes to get his father from another world. Where he gets help from Elise. You can’t get rid of the grandma even after she dies. At the end of the movie, both Josh and Dalton’s memories are erased, just like what was done to Josh as a child.

I’d like to lose my memory too if a cougar like this is chasing after me all the time.

The third part of the series Insidious: Chapter 3, despite its name, is not actually a continuation of the second part, but rather a prequel. The film takes place a little before family troubles of Josh and Renai and stars everyone’s favorite granny, Elise. Elise is clearly liked so much that she had to get her own movie. The most major thing in the film is Elise getting to know the ghostbusters. Otherwise, the story is just a traditional possession-style situation at a home of a random family, since the family’s daughter wanted to try to communicate with her dead mother. The movie is bad and pointless, so that’s everything about it.

You can see this thing in the third movie. Boo.

The end begins to loom when we get to the fourth part of the series, which is logically… Insidious: The Last Key. Wasn’t there Chapter 4? I guess not. This movie is also set in the past, which of course means more adventures for Elise. Yippee! This time, Elise and the ghostbusters head to Elise’s childhood home to investigate some strange happenings. The film deals with Elise’s childhood. The movie is significantly more interesting than Chapter 3, but is not really a useful movie for the series. It explains some of the stuff that happened in the first movie, but not enough or logically. Also, it doesn’t answer all the plot holes it leaves. The demon in the movie is perhaps the most interesting of the gang of spirits in the entire saga, but it is somehow too different to make sense for the rest of the saga.

Fourth movie’s ghost wants to lock people’s throats.

Then onto the new Insidious: The Red Door. The film returns (quite surprisingly) to Josh’s story again. Time has passed and Josh is divorced from his wife Renai, and the kids aren’t big fans of daddy either. The dad also behaves strangely and has occasional tantrums. His memory also sucks. Dalton, the “coma” kid from the first movie, is an art student. He gets too enthusiastic about his art and the memories of his youth start to come back to him. He draws a red door, which reminds him of the moment when the demon from the first movie caught him. In addition to the memories, the skill of astral projection returns, and he causes quite a stir. Finally, both father and son start astral projecting A LOT as familiar spirits chase them. The movie is pretty much a mess and doesn’t really achieve anything.

Guess who manages to pop up even in this movie via a YouTube video?


I can honestly say that I do not understand why this series of films has been continued for so long. Chapter 2 was already somewhat pointless, but it was an understandable sequel anyway – the first part ended on a cliffhanger. Elise’s past stories do not add enough new to the story to justify their filming. The lust for money smells strongly behind them. In The Red Door, I appreciate that we returned to the so-called main plot, but it wasn’t a necessary movie either. Rather, it just renders Chapter 2 meaningless, as it completely nullifies the ending of the second part (i.e. erasing the memories). Besides, it’s really a pretty bad movie in every way. The series starts to repeat itself strongly. To top it all off, I remember reading that the movie series will get even more sequels, which will unexpectedly take place in Elise’s past. Again. Something about the series and Elise clearly attracts its developers – the series is imagined to be more than it really is.

My face when I realize Elise will get another movie.

There is nothing remarkable about the characters in the series. Everyone is relatively bland except for the ghostbusters. The duo in question have surprisingly lot personality, but they are still not essential characters in any way. Comic reliefs only. I also can’t to the death of me understand what fascinates the screenwriters in Elise. The grandma gets way too much attention in the series considering she dies in the first part. Does not make any sense. Especially since nothing too essential happens in the prequels, which would justify her big role. The fact that her actress Lin Shaye seems to be quite a well-known actress might also have an effect on the matter.

I think the basic idea of the series is quite good in terms of astral projection and the other world. It’s not really a special concept – the same is basically in Poltergeist, for example. Still, it’s a perfectly functional concept in terms of the plot. I also liked that the same demons tormented the same people even as they got older. They seem to cling to people. An example of this is the ghost clinging to Josh, the one who bullied him as a child. Admittedly, there is also an illogical example of this, when the demon of the first film makes acquaintance with Elise at the end of the third movie in the form of a cliffhanger. It doesn’t make sense.

Some of the spirits in the movie are pretty cool.

The biggest problems in the series are the loopholes and illogicality of the plot. As for the demon of the first part, it remains completely unclear why it had to torment Dalton in particular. It was never able to capture Dalton’s body, but for some reason in The Red Door this is achieved relatively easily. The series has a red door as an essential plot pattern, behind which the demon of the movie always lurks, so to speak. The theme in question is nice as an idea, but in the fourth movie, its concept is strangely destroyed. In it, Elise learns that doors shouldn’t be opened, but she still opens them all for no reason. Which ultimately leads to nothing, although I suppose this was supposed to have a big impact. It seems that the whole red door concept has many directions where it could be taken, but even the screenwriters don’t know how these doors work. To top it all off, there is some time travel in the series, when Elise from the past, for example, opens the door in front of Dalton in the first movie. Somehow everything is connected, but somehow there is no logic to anything.


Let’s put the movies in order. It was quite easy to come up with a ranking, but the arguments are pretty much repeating each other, so the viewing experience and the logic of the plot have quite a lot of influence on the overall review.

  1. Insidious
    • It’s a solid beginning to the series and the plot isn’t yet destroyed
    • Quite good atmosphere and a logical plot
  2. Insidious: The Last Key
    • Ok atmosphere
    • Plotwise some nice things
    • Pointless and leaves plot holes
  3. Insidious: Chapter 2
    • A necessary continuation to the first movie which doesn’t irritate but doesn’t bring anything new to the table
    • Is a pointless plot in the end
    • Bland
  4. Insidious: The Red Door
    • Destroys the “achievements” of Chapter 2
    • An unnecessary sequel which doesn’t offer anything to the viewer
    • Is at least a sequel to the original saga
  5. Insidious: Chapter 3
    • Focuses on completely unnecessary characters (including Elise)
    • Just like The Red Door, doesn’t offer anything new – I guess the point is to deepen the story of Elise

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