Interview – Lin Shaye Talks The Return of Insidious

The Horror cinema genre has seen an influx of fresh new story concepts thanks to talented, independent filmmakers bringing them to the mainstream. A renaissance for the scene, one of the biggest contributors to Horror has been Blumhouse Productions putting out a list of successful films, but perhaps the most recognized is the Insidious series.

Initially launched back in 2010 with the original film, in the years since, the franchise continues to grow with Insidious: Chapter 2 released in 2013, Insidious: Chapter 3 released in 2015, and now Insidious: The Last Key out on Friday, January 5, 2018. Being dubbed the most terrifying Insidious yet, the series has seen many characters come and go, but perhaps the most beloved is Elise Rainier portrayed by veteran Actress Lin Shaye. Becoming a focal point of Insidious, The Last Key could be the most anticipated chapter yet! Recently we caught up with Lin Shaye to talk the wild success of the Insidious films, her role as Elise Rainier, the work put into The Last Key, and so much more. – Last we spoke back in 2015, Insidious: Chapter 3 had recently been released to positive acclaim. You were involved in several films and television projects since then. First, tell us, what have the last few years been like for you?

Lin Shaye – They have been full and different kinds of things, which is really nice. There has always been some downtime, which is also really nice. As an actor, you often have months where you don’t work. It seems you work really hard and then you have a lapse. This has been a really packed time for me in general. The Insidious series has really upped my valueability in a weird way.

Most people know who am, most people knew me from comedy stuff such as the Farrelly brothers. The Insidious films put me in a slightly different category as far as fanbase. It is a lot of very young, very cool people. Generally the demographic gets to be between 16 and 25, so it is a young fanbase who are just delightful. – That is great to hear and, as mentioned, you have been quite busy working.

Lin Shaye – Yes, workwise, I just finished a project called Gothic Harvest which we shot in New Orleans. It is a Horror film per say and a very interesting story about a voodoo curse. I shot a film this past summer that I co-produced, it is the first time I had ever done that and it is called Room for Rent. It is a small movie, not big names, a very small budget, but it is a fantastic story.

I feel I am trusted more and I have more confidence in myself. That is a big deal for any actor. It is a very special thing obviously for your work to better in everything. In Room for Rent, I was very involved in story and the dialogue. It was directed by a wonderful guy named Tommy Stovall, which I had done two other films with – one with Bruce Davison called Hate Crime (2005), which did extremely well on the indie circuit, and another called Sedona (2011) with Frances Fisher. Long story short, we made it this past summer and it was the most involved I have been in doing a film. That is the one of the things about doing Indies, or with a family, which I have become with Insidious, where you do again feel a tremendous sense of confidence and people hear you.

Often on television sets, where you guest star, everyone is very courteous but it is a machine. You have to fill that slot in the machine, that is your job, that is it, and you go home. There is very little time for input or discussing anything. The writer is the lord of television basically. There is no dialogue changes without going through the writer, and you usually cannot find the writer, depending on the show of course. I am not putting down television but I function better in a slower pace. I enjoy kind of wallowing in the material, thinking about it, and being able to comment on what I think will make it better.

It has been a very eventful few years. There is a movie called The Midnight Man with Robert Englund and I. It is being released this month, but we shot it in Winnipeg and it is really terrific. The word is it is supposed to open January 19th. I am going to be ready to do a movie with Greg Grunberg called Max Reload and the Nether Blasters, which is a Comedy about video gamers. Time goes bye and that is pretty much where I am at right now. I am just ecstatic about Insidious: The Last Key. I hope this newly found confidence after 46 years in the business will carry me into the next 46 years (laughs). I’ll live as long as they let me, hopefully creating and working.

IFC – Fantastic! There is a lot for fans to look forward to. It also seems Insidious really opened a lot of doors. In 2015’s Insidious: Chapter 3 you played an intricate role. Now you are set to return on January 5, 2018, playing an even bigger role in Insidious: The Last Key. Each Insidious film offers a different piece to the puzzle. It is a wonderfully classic ghost story but with a new element not seen in other films. What do you think separates the Insidious franchise from others in the Horror genre?

Lin Shaye – That is a great question. I think there is a depth of emotionality that you don’t always feel in Horror films. Usually they are made for scares, which is important because people like that – they like to be scared in public and then go home to their safe, warm beds. I think Insidious reaches in deeper.

Leigh Whannell, who has written the series, is an incredibly brilliant writer. He is a very emotional guy, which people don’t really know about him. He pretends he’s not, but he is very thoughtful and kind. He really has tremendous depth to both his wit and emotionality. I think both those elements are in the story.

Of course, Specs and Tucker are the comic relief and they play a large part in Insidious: The Last Key. There are some very funny moments in this film, but they are beautifully crafted and executed. A good Horror film is like a great park ride… you go up and up, and then there is a big drop, and the release at the bottom. It is at those moments the comedy sort of surfaces to give you courage to go back up the hill again. I think Leigh’s skill and storytelling take people into a very emotional place, as well as the scary parts.

In this Insidious film, you will see Elise’s past is extremely dark. It is interesting because my idea of what her past was is very different than what Leigh came up with. His ideas were much better than mine (laughs). It really fills in and it is the first time we explore Elise’s fears. We see what she is made of and the audience at this point is hopefully invested with my character. Hopefully for the right reasons, I try and give much honesty to the work I do as possible, I try and go deep places in myself. So there is an emotional connection to this character already, which I think amplifies the depth and feeling in this film. The series, in general, is skilled at taking the audience into their own fear and own emotionality; I think it sets them apart from a lot of other Horror films. – Yes, that is very true. It connects deeper on many levels. Blumhouse Productions has done a fine job of putting out such films in recent years.

Lin Shaye – Blumhouse has been very savvy of finding stories that do just that. Jason Blum is not only a genius, but one of the nicest people I ever met. He is a real family guy, loves people, he is totally an honest person, he gives everyone the opportunity they deserve. At a recent Q&A, he was asked if someone gives you a script and after the first 15-25 pages and you don’t like it, do you just put it away. He said, ‘No, I don’t care if I don’t like it all the way up to the last page, I will finish it, I finish every script I start.’ That is something to be said by an executive. That is the kind of the sensibility to the company which is producing these movies. Films such as Get Out and Split, which were very popular in 2017, had those elements in it as well. I think that sets him apart as a producer of these films as well. I love Jason, I feel totally connected to him at the hip and hope I stay there for many years.

Focus Features – Agreed, Blumhouse has done a fine job of helping resurrect what had been a stagnant Horror genre for some time. The Last Key directly follows the events of Chapter 3. As stated, in Chapter 3 you were able to develop the character of Elise more in-depth, whereas in The Last Key you are truly a primary focal point. Could you foresee the story continuing on or does this conclude the story?

Lin Shaye – Well, as James Wan said after the first Insidious, ‘Jesus, too bad we killed you.’ (laughs) I was very grateful and fortunate the character popped enough that they decided to do these prequels to tell more about Elise. It is hard to say because if Leigh keeps writing them, there is no end to his wealth of imagination and creativity. In terms of storytelling with Elise, there might be those teenage years, but I think in general this paints a complete picture of where she came from, why she does what she does, and who she is. There is always room in ‘The Further’ if they continue with the franchise.

There are zillions of storylines based on new characters that have emerged in this story. They can also bring characters back from other chapters, which I don’t know if anyone has ever done that, but it seems like a no-brainer. If the franchise continues, and there are different characters in each chapter, it might be fun to re-incorporate them. Characters like Carl, my fellow psychic, who gives me support when we see more in Chapter 3. There are also other characters threatened by demons such as Quinn from Chapter 3. Patrick Wilson is now part of The Conjuring series, so I don’t think we can bring him back since he is known for that, but who knows.

There are a lot of different character stories that could be re-incorporated into another film. My hope is… a bit emotional here… they never forget Elise and I get to continue on some level in ‘The Further’ or they find some way to explore my life again before it ended in the first film. – The possibilities truly are endless. Some early reactions in pre-screenings is that The Last Key is the scariest Insidious yet. Would you agree with that?

Lin Shaye – I would hope so! Again, what is scary to people is very personal. I think fear is a fascinating emotion because it takes all kinds of shapes. I have a line in the movie Gothic Harvest which is ‘Fear is the variety that everybody suffers in a little bit of a different way.’ Everybody I think is fearful in slightly different ways. Our nervous system reacts the same, because fearful sweat is a bit different than physical sweat as we all know. There are hormones that go off, your whole system is in a state of fear and flight. If this is the scariest, it must be hitting a chord in people. I still think fear is a personal thing.

Insidious: The Last Key still. © Universal Pictures – Well, we will find out more when the film is released on Friday, January 5th!

Lin Shaye – I am so excited for this! I was just in Brazil and Hong Kong at Comic Cons and there was 3,500 people cheering Elise as I came out on-stage with a lantern and smoke, they had Rock music playing as I entered. It just has been such an incredible ride for me this time around. We all know life ebbs and flows, I am really trying to stay in the present to enjoy this whole experience to its fullest. If this is the pinnacle for Elise, you have to accept that. You don’t want to push it past where it hits the mark because then there are the groans that start, you know what I am saying? There is really a peak of success with things and you can only ride that crest for so long before the new kid in town shows up. I am aware of that, I don’t like it, but I am aware of it (laughs).

Chapter 4 deals with some gnarly family issues too – it has elements of child abuse, terrible relationships with parents, it has a lot of stuff that goes on in real life. Those are chords that are going to hit with people and make it really scary as well.

Universal Pictures – There is no question. You have always done a sensational job with the character of Elise. You are also one of the only characters to be a part of each film. That in mind, what was the on-set chemistry like with the cast this time around?

Lin Shaye – It was great. Caitlin Gerard, who plays my niece Imogen, and Spencer Locke, who plays my other niece Melissa, are sisters who are wildly different. They are wonderful characters and Imogen and Spencer do a fantastic job. They were wonderful actresses, very smart, and very giving. There was no attitude at all from anyone. Josh Stewart who played my father Gerald, really scared the daylights out of me, he did a fantastic job. Bruce Davison, who plays Christian Rainier, is just a widely emotional, loving guy. He has an embracive personality who works very hard and loves what he does. There was tremendous chemistry and appreciation of each other that we all experienced together.

I am not listing all the characters of course, but everyone that came was great. The little girl who played a younger Elise, Ava Kolker, was really amazing. She did a fantastic job! She had a very difficult couple of scenes with ‘our father.’ She is very professional, was 10 years old at the time, and she was so grown up. When I was 9-10 years old, I was lucky if I could get my marbles out of a bag (laughs). This little girl was on it! I feel like I am still the child some of the time, maybe that is a good thing too, who knows what we hang onto as we grow older. Not to digress, but it was really a wonderful chemistry.

Leigh is a one man show. He really is hilarious he could do stand up, not stop talking for two hours, and have you on the floor laughing. I adore the guy – I adore his brilliance, intellect, and his kindness. He is very diplomatic but he is very clear about what is not working, and I love that about him. He pulled me back a couple of times in a really positive way. Angus Sampson, who played Specs, is like my support system. Not only is he a big man physically, but he is a big man emotionally and intellectually. He is a really smart actor and gave me tremendous support in a couple of scenes for me. All in all, I guess you might say I am in heaven. I don’t have to wait for it, I am in it!

Insidious: The Last Key still. © Universal Pictures – Wow, it sounds like a really wonderful family-like set. You could not ask for much more.

Lin Shaye – Yes, when we were in places like Brazil, Hong Kong, and Thailand, they all loved the film. It was really gratifying and exciting to feel like you stimulated people’s emotions and thoughts. That for me is why I am actor, right there in a nutshell. It is to be able to stimulate other people’s feelings and emotions about themselves and each other. I have never really said that like that before, but it is pretty accurate. There are other wonderful things as well about acting, but to know that you touched people and made them think about something they might not thought about before, that is the point of art. – That is a wonderful sentiment, it does not get more real than that. Last question. You had mentioned that Psycho (1960) and A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) were some of your favorite Horror films in our past interview. Have you seen any newer Horror related films since we last spoke that you enjoyed?

Lin Shaye – I think last year’s Get Out was really amazing. Again, it took you on an unconventional ride that also dealt with big issues like race. The things that I am interested in is not just entertainment, I mean entertainment is part of what this all is, but the fact a movie like that deals with something else as well, even if it is partially subtle. It had fantastic acting in it, it was surprising and shocking. I think, to date, it has been one of my most favorite Horror films I have watched lately. I thought Split was great too, but that was a more tour de force performance. The story of Get Out I thought was just amazing.

Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

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