Although her character Elise Rainier takes a final bow at the end of the 2010 horror film “Insidious,” actress Lin Shaye returns to reprise her role as the paranormal medium in the sequel, “Insidious: Chapter 2.” Once again, Elise – this time from the grave – is involved in helping the Lamberts exorcise the demons that now possess the father of the family (Patrick Wilson).
During an interview with me, Shaye, who has starred in such films as “There’s Something About Mary” and “Kingpin,” talked about returning for only the second horror sequel of her career and whether or not she’d like to return for the upcoming “Dumb and Dumber” sequel starring Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels.
What were your initial thoughts when they asked you to reprise your role in “Insidious: Chapter 2” knowing your character Elise dies in the first movie?
Well, when [director] James [Wan] and I did the first film, we had a discussion about [a sequel]. He said, “Lin, if there is another story to be told, I’d love to have you participate, so I’m going back and forth on what your demise should be [in the first movie]. Then the light bulb went on for both of us and we realized this is a ghost story. We can make our own rules. They worked for a long while trying to figure out the exact right way to reintroduce Elise. I’m really thrilled the way my character has been positioned in [“Chapter 2”]. I have a strong entrance and a strong presence in the film. The crowd really seems to love the character, which is always exciting for me.
Yeah, even though Elise gets a little less screen time in the sequel, she is still a very integral part of the story. How do you feel this one stacks up to the original?
It’s hard to say because you never know what fans are expecting. One of the big problems about sequels is expectations. You hope the film is seen for its own merit as well as answer questions about the first one. That was one of the goals of doing the sequel. I hope the fans love it. It is very intense in a different kind of way than the first one. It deals with some pretty gnarly family domestic issues. I think it has a lot of elements in it that will stimulate peoples’ thoughts and ideas and add up to a really good couple of hours of scary entertainment.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but is this the second horror movie sequel you’ve been in where you are also in the original? The first was “Critters” and “Critter 2,” correct?
Oh, wow. Yes, I was in “Critters” and “Critters 2.” I was also in the first “Nightmare on Elm Street” and I was in the last one (1994’s “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare”), but they were different characters. What I found somewhat difficult [in “Insidious: Chapter 2”] was recreating the character in a new set of circumstances. I tried to stay true to who Elise is and what it was that made people really respond to her. At the same time, she’s in a whole different setup. So, I would ask James really technical stuff. We talked about what human elements needed to be maintained to keep the character appealing and true to herself. I remember there were articles and articles written about “Nightmare on Elm Street” and why people were so in love with Freddy Krueger and what was the need for that movie at that time in filmmaking history. They had the same conversation about the film “There’s Something About Mary.” If that movie had been released five years earlier or five years later, would it still be as popular? There’s a whole psychology to the way an audience experiences a film.
Speaking of psychology and getting into the heads of the audience, I have a two-year-old at home, so there are musical baby toys all over my house. Now after seeing this, I really don’t like the idea of any of those toys going off.
(Laughs) Seriously, how many of us – even with dog toys – have stepped on one? I’ll get up in the middle of the night and step on a stuffed raccoon that squeaks and scare the you-know-what out of myself. When you turn those elements into something sinister, it really sticks with you. That’s so interesting because it makes you think about the psychology of fear, too. What is your own personal fear? That’s what all these movies deal with. Are you scared of sound? Are you scared of something visual? There seems to be something universal about taking something we love and feel safe with and turning it upside down so that it scares you. My favorite line in [“Insidious 2”] is when the kid goes, “Is there something wrong with daddy?” because if something’s wrong with daddy, something’s really wrong.
What did you think about the casting choice of actress Lindsay Seim to play a young Elise? Do you think she captured the 1980s version of your character pretty well?
She did a wonderful job. She’s a lovely young actress. Originally, we were hoping we could play those characters ourselves. But it really wasn’t right because the characters are in their 20s. It was a very odd feeling when I was told they were looking for a “Lin Shaye type.” When I met Lindsay, I was actually quite flattered. When I was in my 20s, I was kind of dorky. (Laughs) She is really pretty and really on her game for an actress. She is very earnest about her work and very talented. She really looks like she could be my daughter. I think she captured the young naivety of Elise very well.
You’ve been in quite a few horror movies in your career. Do you ever take it home with you? Do any of those movies ever give you nightmares since you’re always involved in them?
What I think about in the middle of the night is, “How did that scene go?” (Laughs) I think, “Oh, I have a better idea!” No, I really don’t [take it home]. Those things aren’t scary to me. You’re sort of desensitized when you’re on set because it’s so technical. Then, within the technical aspects, you try to bring your own emotional life and the emotional life of the character. Some of the scary stuff you see on screen is actually really funny [on the set]. But the way it’s put together in the editing room and with music, it’s scary to the audience. That’s just the magic of movies. When you’re shooting it, it’s more nuts and bolts.
What horror movie in your past do you think deserves a sequel? How about a “Critters 5?”
You know, to tell you the truth, I only saw “Critters” and “Critters 2.” I never saw the other ones because I wasn’t involved in them. But people do love those furry little guys. Sequels are not my favorite thing to anticipate doing. I think once you’ve told a good story, you should leave the story alone and let it resonate on its own. That’s how I feel as an artist. I know commercially it’s really lucrative. Look what happened with “Nightmare on Elm Street.” Look what they’re doing with “Paranormal Activity.” I can’t really think of one I’d like to do a sequel to because I don’t have a story in mind. People even talked about doing a sequel for “There’s Something About Mary.” They were really smart for not doing a sequel. (Laughs) You have to leave perfection alone. There’s been some talk from a friend on Facebook who was trying to get the rights for “Critters” to do a movie in 3D. I always look at the material and ask, “Is this something that’s going to be fun to do at this time in my life?”
What about maybe reprising your role in “Dumb and Dumber” since we now know that sequel is definitely going to happen? Would you like to see Mrs. Neugieberger get written into the new script?
I hope so! If I have a say, yes of course! I don’t know what their plan is or how they’re going to construct the story, but I would be delighted. I miss those guys (directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly). I did a small part for them in “The Three Stooges.” The role was written as a nod to me, which I really appreciated. I love them to pieces. They changed my life with “There’s Something About Mary” and “Kingpin.” Those movies changed my career. I think they are exquisitely talented and generous men. They have many chapters to come. I would always welcome anything they wanted to include me in. If they want me to walk by the window and whistle, I’m in.