The inimitable Lin Shaye has starred in many a fright flick, including A Nightmare on Elm Street, Critters, Dead End, 2001 Maniacs and its sequel 2001 Maniacs: Field of Screams, Alone in the Dark, Amityville: A New Generation, Tales of Halloween, Abattoir, Ouija and its prequel Ouija: Origin of Evil.
But it’s her role as psychic-medium Elise Rainier in the Insidious franchise that’s really cemented her place as a legend in the genre and earned her the nickname “The Godmother of Horror.” [https://www.dreadcentral.com/news/101464/lin-shaye-is-officially-the-godmother-of-horror/]
We caught up with Shaye, appropriately enough, at the famously haunted Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. We discussed her starring role in Insidious: The Last Key, in which we will learn Elise’s fascinating—and frightful—backstory.
Dread Central: Elise is a real bad-ass in this prequel. How does it feel for you, seeing how much she’s evolved in the series, and how the fans are embracing you?
Lin Shaye: I don’t know – I think that part is up to you (laughs). It really Leigh’s written a fantastic character and we just had us a bunch of interviews together and it’s really fun for me to hear, [about Elise’s evolution] ‘It’s your fault, no it’s your fault, it’s your fault!’ He says sort of that in some ways I’ve inspired him to write that character and in other ways I feel like he’s inspired me to act that character. So it’s kind of a two way street. I feel he’s written wonderful stories and it’s fun to see the pieces. Since we saw the end first not knowing it was the end, but now all these other pieces, it’s like you have the outline of the puzzle and now we’re trying to make sure all the colours fit together. It’s a little bit of a challenge in that way. It was a hard movie because it was so emotional and the back story he created for me was not at all what I would have expected and it wasn’t what I thought because as an actor you try to build. My thoughts in the beginning were first when I tried to picture Elise was being a loner, an only child, and that through her kind of loneliness and fantasy world she ending up inviting these spirits into her. That was kind of my story. Well! I was wrong! So Leigh instead built this very dark and ominous past which I think even accentuates more the value of who Elise becomes, which is she’s able to rise above all that and still become a real giver. Especially today, we’re all about the ‘me, me, me’ – it’s the I phone, not the you phone, the we phone, the us phone, it’s the I, about me. And Elise is very much the opposite. She is about you and about helping if she can and will be willing to put herself in jeopardy to do it. That’s rare. That’s not how people live their lives. And the fact she can rise about the stuff she’s been through. I think there’s a lot of people who have secrets about their past that they don’t want to confront, they don’t want to express to anyone else and I hope that this maybe open us peoples buts a little bit about their own lives. So, I take it seriously and I’m glad to be that bad-ass if that’s what they want!
DC: Did the actress who played the younger version of Elise meet you before playing the role?
LS: The little one, Ava. Yes she’s great. She’s so grown up. I think she’s pretty young, ten or something. And she is really grown up. I mean her dialogue – it’s kind of disconcerting a little bit because she’s very adult for her age, very good little actress, she really is. She’s smart, she’s prepared, she asks questions if she’s not sure about something, and we got along great. When I first met her – and they did try to cast some actresses that had some resemblance to me – she doesn’t look like I did when I was little. But she does look a little like me now – there’s some resemblance.
DC: It was a pleasant surprise to see Bruce Davison in the movie. He’s always been a favorite of mine.
LS: I worked with him actually on another film a long time ago called Hate Crime, which was where I met him. I think he played like a bible thumping preacher – he was very, very good. He’s always very good at what he does. He’s very effusive. Very embracive. Very bigger than life. Very emotional. A very – kinetic energy. [In the movie] without giving too much away, we are definitely at different points in our life and both want something different. That’s all I’ll say. And we’re family. And so it’s a family I haven’t seen for many, many years and there’s a moment of confrontation that’s very powerful. Then there’s a reconciliation. The scenes between are very emotional and powerful I think. I love him. He’s a very good guy. Very, very good guy and very good actor.
DC: You have a lot of scary and horrifying things to go through, but the appeal of the Insidious movies is their levity. It seems natural. What’s it like when you’re shooting, switching gears a lot?
LS: Specs and Tucker are nonstop – before they get on set. They have banter, they’ve known each other a long time, they’re both hilarious, both brilliant guys. The characters are definitely their creation and I think especially in this film, their presence is sorely needed and beautifully used in terms of the orchestration of the story. It’s like a roller coaster. It’s up, up, up, up and you can’t go any higher and then you go ah, okay, you’ve got to go down and they represent that downward fall back into a big breath. And then the tension starts to mount again. I love them both to pieces. Leigh just – I adore him – I have such high respect for his talent and his kindness and his silliness. And his fatherhood – now that he’s got these 46 children. (laughs) [Actually, it’s three.]
DC: Adam Robitel is coming into the franchise on the fourth film. The others were directed by James Wan, and then Leigh Whannell, who’s written all of them. What’s it like with this new energy?
LS: I’ve known Adam for a long time. I knew him when he was an actor – we were in 2001 Maniacs together. Tim Sullivan’s wonderful movie. He played a Confederate soldier who was kind of disabled mentally and had a sheep as a bed partner. That’s all I’ll say! Then he made The Taking of Deborah Logan. He’s a brilliant guy. He still was the new kid on the block. He was a great listener and added a wonderful new energy ingredient being just a new person on set. That in its own way added an energy to the movie. Easy to work with. Great ideas. A great collaborator. Because Leigh was on set of course as Specs. And even though Leigh did not direct the film, he is also the writer so there were questions about stuff that they communicated and I think Adam always had a very successful resolution to any problem we were having. I think the final product really speaks for itself. He did a beautiful job. It fulfils I think, the expectations of the fans of the franchise but adds this new more pervasive ingredient which is a little bit of mystery – there’s sort of a mystery element.
DC: To what do you attribute the audience’s enduring fascination with Elise Rainier?
LS: That’s a great question. I’m not sure I know the answer. I’m grateful for the answer. I think because James and Leigh wrote a really wonderful first story that does bring you in through family values kind of – young couple with their child who’s got a real problem and they’re trying to solve it. And I mean that’s a pretty universal family value – parents want to make their children comfortable, want to do the best they have for them and then it gets turned on its head in a way that no one is expecting. Fear is a very fascinating emotion I think. People are fascinated with that. And bringing fear into that comfy arena is a very exciting – people gravitate to that. It’s familiar. There’s a familiarity and an excitement that kind of – that’s pretend. Then you can go out of the theatre and go home to your nice warm family. Also, they’re just good stories.
Insidious: The Last Key hits theaters January 5, 2018.
Parapsychologist Elise Rainier and her team travel to Five Keys, N.M., to investigate a man’s claim of a haunting. Terror soon strikes when Rainier realizes that the house he lives in was her family’s old home.