Friday Film Roundup: Insidious: The Red Door, Joy Ride, Amanda, and More

EntertainmentBy 2023-09-08T16:53:00-04:00July 7th, 2023|
  • "Insidious: The Red Door" courtesy of Screen Gems

This weekend is another that’s forgoing the traditional summer blockbusters to give audiences a long-awaited horror sequel and a well-received original comedy. With “Insidious: The Red Door,” fans are getting one more trip into The Further in a franchise capper that brings to a close more than 10 years worth of lore. “Joy Ride,” on the other hand, is an original R-rated comedy composed almost entirely of AAPI creatives both in front of and behind the camera. It’s a good weekend for indies, too, with critically acclaimed releases like “Amanda” and A24’s “Earth Mama” coming to theaters as well.

“Insidious: The Red Door” (In Theaters July 7th)

The release of James Wan’s “Insidious” in 2010 confirmed that low-budget horror films could become major box office hits. It happened the year before with “Paranormal Activity,” but “Insidious” and Blumhouse, the production company who released both movies, proved that it wasn’t a one-off. Since then, Blumhouse has had a chokehold on the genre that nobody has been able to match in the decade since.

The franchise’s inaugural installment is already a new genre classic, but the sequels weren’t quite as well-received. Where “The Conjuring” universe thrived with its various sequels and spin-offs, the “Insidious” franchise has had trouble capturing the magic of the 2010 original. “Insidious: Chapter 2” didn’t get the same love that the first one did. “Insidious: Chapter 3” came very close but struggled to find an audience because it focused on a completely different cast. And we’re not even going to talk about “Insidious: The Last Key” because, well, we’d like to forget it as much as everyone else.

Now, with the release of the fifth (and most likely final) installment in the franchise, we return to the family that started it all. Set 10 years after the first two films, “Insidious: The Red Door” reintroduces the Lambert family as they venture once more into The Further, a dark underworld which is home to spirits, ghosts, and demons.

Every cast member reprises their roles, including Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson, who actually directed this one, too. However, in the 13 years since “Insidious,” Ty Simpkins — who plays a young Dalton in the first two movies — has gone on to have a pretty successful career in Hollywood, making his return to the franchise all the more exciting.

It probably won’t win over any new converts, especially because this looks like it’s fans-only territory, but “The Red Door” might just be the franchise-ender those fans have been waiting for.

“Joy Ride” (In Theaters July 7th)

With films like “Everything Everywhere All at Once” and “Parasite” winning Best Pictures at the Oscars, visibility for Asian and Asian American communities is at an all-time high. There’s been no shortage of great films coming from Asian and AAPI directors. In 2023 alone, we’ve already gotten “Past Lives,” the current frontrunner for Best Picture. Coincidentally, it’s about time we got another all-female gross-out comedy. Enter “Joy Ride.”

Produced by Seth Rogen and directed and co-written by Adele Lim, “Joy Ride” follows a Chinese-American woman named Audrey Sullivan (played by Ashley Park), who is now a successful attorney. Although Audrey loves her adoptive parents, Mary and Joe, she can’t help but wonder where (and, more importantly, who) she comes from. With three friends in tow, Audrey returns to China to search for her birth parents. Of course, hijinx and hilarity ensue.

In the spirit of movies like “Girls Trip” and “The Hangover,” “Joy Ride” follows “No Hard Feelings” as another example of the raunchy, R-rated comedies we miss seeing.

“Biosphere” (In Theaters and On Demand July 7th)

Climate change is pretty scary, we can all agree on that. The increase of extreme weather events and ecological shifts in various environments around the globe are a harbinger of what’s to come. One film, however, is brave enough to ask: what if we made the end of the world funny? “Biosphere,” which stars Mark Duplass and Sterling K. Brown, is that film.

Set a few years after the end of Earth, Billy (Duplass) and Ray (Brown) are most likely the last two people on the planet. Because Billy was the last sitting US president before the apocalypse, he and Ray — his lifelong best friend who he hired as part of his administration — spend every single day together, talking about “Super Mario Bros.” and jogging around their titular dwelling.

I had a chance to see “Biosphere” a few weeks before its release and I can say confidently that it’s one of the most original sci-fi films I’ve seen in a long time. Do yourself a favor, don’t look anything up, and just go watch it. It’s hilarious, intelligent, intense, and one of the more interesting films I’ve seen in a while.

“Amanda” (In Theaters July 7th)

Amanda (played by Benedetta Porcaroli) is 25 with no friends and no boyfriend. She spends most of her time lounging around at home and has no idea what the future holds in store. When her family pressures her to go out and meet some like-minded people, she ends up reconnecting with Rebecca (played by Galatéa Bellugi), a fellow shut-in who hasn’t left her room in over a year and someone with whom Amanda was once best friends.

The two form a newfound bond on the basis of their shared loneliness and learn a few things about what it means to be a friend. “Amanda” doesn’t look like your typical quirky comedy thanks to its sensitive, empathetic approach and some confident stylizing from writer-director Carolina Cavalli. This one is definitely worth checking out.

“Earth Mama” (In Theaters July 7th)

A24’s latest release by director Savanah Leaf follows a woman in the Bay Area trying desperately to get her two children out of foster care while carrying her third. Relying on the community that surrounds and supports her, we watch as Gia (played by Tia Nomore) tries to navigate a broken system to be reunited with her kids. Although it won’t be an easy watch, “Earth Mama” is the kind of independent cinema that needs more support.

Josef Rodriguez is a writer, filmmaker, and film critic living in New York City.