The Insidious Timeline Explained

March 3rd, 2023The Insidious Timeline Explained

INSIDIOUS, a small-budget horror film starring Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne, was a surprise success in 2011, with both critics and audiences. It kicked off a prolific franchise that continues in one of the most anticipated 2023 horror movies, INSIDIOUS: FEAR THE DARK. The new film will allow fans of the series to catch up with the Lambert family as their traumatic past suddenly comes back to haunt them.

The INSIDIOUS saga is comprised of five installments set in more than one time period, leading to an intricate mythology. With INSIDIOUS: FEAR THE DARK coming to AMC Theatres on Friday, July 7th, here's a comprehensive guide to the franchise's storyline so you're all caught up when you experience the next trip into the Further.

Note: Spoilers follow for all films in the series except INSIDIOUS: FEAR THE DARK.


Chronologically speaking, original INSIDIOUS writer Leigh Whannell’s directorial debut is the first chapter in the series. The story centers around Quinn Brenner, a teenager played by Stefanie Scott, who desperately tries to contact her deceased mother through occult means. Her efforts to reach out to the spirit world backfire and, instead of contacting her mother, she ends up attracting a malignant presence hellbent on dragging her down into the land of the dead, known as The Further. With no one else to turn to for aid, Quinn's father (Dermot Mulroney) pays a visit to a psychic named Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye).

Yet, Elise had hung up her demon-hunting hat a year prior and refuses to help the Brenners. She's got her own difficult supernatural history: shortly after her husband's suicide, Rainier tried to contact his spirit to get some form of closure. Just as Quinn experienced, however, Rainier's trip into the Further opened the door for an unsavory character: a sadistic old woman dressed in black, who made it her mission to kill Elise after she severed the woman's link to a young boy named Josh Lambert.

That looming threat forced Elise to retire. Fortunately, she changes her mind after realizing Quinn's grave situation. This is when she meets Tucker (Angus Sampson) and Specs (Whannell), a duo Quinn's father hired as a last resort in his bid to save Quinn. Aided by the two technicians, the brave psychic enters the Further once again, battles the woman haunting her, and retrieves Quinn's soul. With their case solved, Tucker, Specs and Elise decide to work together as paranormal hunters.

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The most recent chapter in the series – from ESCAPE ROOM director Adam Robitel – opens with a flashback to Elise’s traumatic childhood before picking up right where INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 3 left off. Elise, Tucker and Specs receive a call from a man (Kirk Acevedo) haunted by demons. This isn't just an average case, however. The man being terrorized lives in Elise's old childhood home, and the threat he's facing is the creature she accidentally set free when she was just a child called “KeyFace.”

Joining the investigation are Elise’s estranged brother, Christian (Bruce Davison), and his daughters, Imogen (Caitlin Gerard) and Melissa (Spencer Locke) – the latter of whom is spectrally kidnapped into the Further by KeyFace. After Elise is taken prisoner when trying to rescue Melissa, Imogen uses her own astral projection abilities to find them both. Surprisingly aiding them all in their battle against KeyFace are the long-lost spirits of Elise’s father (Josh Stewart) and mother (Tessa Ferrer).

On her way out from the Further, Elise opens a red door that brings her face to face with Dalton Lambert (Ty Simpkins), whom she later has a startling dream about. The next morning, she receives a call from her old friend and client, Lorraine Lambert (Barbara Hershey), asking her to help her grandson, whom Elise immediately realizes is Dalton.

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INSIDIOUS is the first installment in the franchise, but the third chapter in the overall story. The plot takes place after the events of THE LAST KEY, and it centers around Renai (Rose Byrne) and Josh Lambert (Patrick Wilson), a married couple who move into a new house with their three children Dalton, Kali (Brynn and Madison Bowie) and Foster (Andrew Astor). One night, Dalton encounters a dark presence in the attic and falls down a ladder. The next day, the boy mysteriously falls into a coma.

After three months of unsuccessful treatment, the Lamberts take Dalton back home. Unfortunately for them, they experience attacks from ghostly entities. While they decide to move, the family soon learns the house wasn't the problem. Seeing their predicament, Lorraine, Josh's mother, calls in Elise, who she's known ever since Elise helped free Josh from the aforementioned woman in black, dubbed the "Bride in Black."

Elise, Tucker and Specs visit the Lambert family. The psychic reveals that Dalton has the ability to travel into the spirit realm, just like his father had as a child. The boy's constant trips to the Further alerted evil spirits which crave life, and one of the most powerful entities, the Lipstick-Face Demon – star of some of the INSIDIOUS movies’ scariest moments – has set out to possess him. Elise tells Josh that he needs to go into the land of the dead to get his son back. Josh manages to rescue Dalton, but on their way out of the Further, he encounters the Bride in Black. The father-son duo successfully exit the hellish afterlife they were in, but not everything's done.

Elise notices something off about Josh and takes a picture of him. At that point, she learns that Josh is actually being possessed by the Bride in Black. Before Elise can react, the spirit murders her.

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INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2 picks up right after its predecessor. With Josh trapped in the Further, the Bride in Black inhabits his body and takes over his life. She isn't doing a very good job hiding her identity, though. Because of that, Lorraine, Renai, Tucker, Specs, Elise's spirit, and a psychic named Carl (Steve Coulter), set out to learn the demon's backstory. The group discovers that in life, the Bride was actually a man named Parker Crane, who was tortured by his mother from an early age. As an adult, Crane became a serial killer. Eventually, he ended up in a hospital, where he met a young Josh.

Shortly after their encounter, Crane committed suicide and began stalking Josh as the Bride in Black. With this information, the paranormal investigators hatch a plan to take out the demon and recover Josh from the Further. Unfortunately, their strategy goes awry and Renai and her children are chased by a possessed Josh. With no other options, Dalton goes back to the Further, and alongside Elise helps his father return to the world of the living.

With the Bride finally banished, Carl helps Josh and his son forget their supernatural ordeal. Sometime after this event, Tucker and Specs –– who are continuing their ghost-hunting practice –– visit the family of a young girl who suffered an accident caused by a supernatural entity. Unbeknownst to them, Elise's spirit goes into the girl's house and tries to talk to her. At that moment, the seasoned psychic spots an evil presence hiding in the shadows right before the screen cuts to black.

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INSIDIOUS franchise star Patrick Wilson is not only returning to the role that made him a modern Scream King, but he is also making his directorial debut with INSIDIOUS: FEAR THE DARK. The upcoming fifth installment is also the fifth chapter chronologically, acting as a direct sequel to CHAPTER 2.

The story takes place a decade after Josh and Dalton (who is about to start college) made the decision to repress their abilities of astral projection. However, the father and son learn that even that would not be able to keep them safe. Rose Byrne and Andrew Astor also reprise their roles as Renai and Foster, but there has been nothing to confirm whether or not Lin Shaye will appear again as Elise’s spirit.


And now you're all caught up!

It will be interesting to see how life has been treating the Lamberts since their last ghostly encounter and how the evils of the Further will catch up with them again when INSIDIOUS: FEAR THE DARK comes out in July. Prepare for the franchise’s return by hosting an INSIDIOUS marathon, and purchase the entire movie collection with AMC Theatres® On Demand.

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