Insidious continues to be one of the peak horror franchises of powerhouse genre studio, Blumhouse. With the 4th and latest entry, Insidious: The Last Key having hit blu-ray, DVD, and digital earlier this week. The film follows breakout character Dr. Elise Rainier as she returns to her family home to confront and evil from her past that threatens her and the loved one’s future. I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Lin Shaye and Spencer Locke, who star as parapsychologist Elise Rainier and her niece, Melissa and discuss the franchise and characters. A word of caution, as there are SPOILERS ahead!
iHorror: What was it like working together, especially as family?
Spencer Locke: So fun! We were lucky that our first scene together was actually our introduction scene.
Lin Shaye: So, we’re only meeting on camera, basically. Which was great!
SL: It was great to explore the recognition of a long lost family member. Whether Melissa and Imogen, whether we share the gift of knowing more… I like to think that we share that special gift which is why we have such a powerful connection when we first meet. Melissa had no idea that she had an aunt in the first place and her father’s history was such a mystery to her and had so many questions that she needed answers to. I love working with [Lin] and then she just instantly brings it every time and can make every moment so much better. They’re just instantly better being opposite of [Lin].
LS: Oh my goodness.
SL: It’s true!
Image via Deadline
LS: I mean, when I first started doing Elise… I imagined that I was pretty much an only child. I didn’t imagine having a brother. I sort of- The kind of way I created the solitude of Elise, which I think she lives in was really creating that with no family. So, that was how I always thought of her and then, lo and behold! And then I found out in the third one (Insidious 3) of course, that she had a husband who dies and goes into The Further which is why she gives up her ability to go into The Further, because it’s too frightening for her, and she’s afraid of the demon in there. That is her demon.
So when I found out I had a brother and two nieces, it was like “Oh! Okay, Leigh!” (Laughs) It was a little bit surprising and also made me have to rethink the character because now this was something that was a total secret that you never heard anything about these other people in any of the other installments of the film.
So, which led me to believe that she was keeping a secret or she didn’t want to admit to it. And it was such a rich background, with an abusive father, and a mother who was murdered by her father. Then you start understanding why she would have never think about it and Leigh was very skillful in writing this story which made me have to go back and confront my family. So, it was really an exciting addition to the character for me and and a brilliant move on Leigh Whannell’s part to create this backstory.
IH: With the horror genre, the villains tend to be the icons of the franchise. What do you think it is about Elise that made her the face of the Insidious franchise?
LS: I don’t know for sure. I think there’s something… there’s some relation that people feel to her, which is kind of surprising and one of the things I’ve come to understand through other interviews is that Elise is a giver, not a taker. She’s not- today’s world is about the iPhone. It’s not the ‘WePhone”, the “UsPhone”, the “ThemPhone”, it’s the “I” It’s all about “me, me, me” and Elise is about “you, you, you” she looks out, not in. I think there’s something very appealing and attractive about that element. So, I think that’s one of the things and hopefully the grace I’ve been able to give to her as a person. I don’t know if I’ve got it as Lin, but (laughs) I was able to give it to Elise, so that’s very exciting.
IH: What would you say was the scariest or most difficult scene to film in Insidious: The Last Key?
Image via Youtube
SL: Probably my scene with KeyFace in the basement, because it was very physical and he did have, you know, such a crazy costume and these long key fingers that he had to make sure he was very specific and careful with all of his movements. It was just heightened emotions, and- it’s a lot! It was a great time and I was lucky that Javier (KeyFace) is so talented and the make-up-
LS: He’s like a dancer. He’s so specific in his moves.
SL: Exactly. Couldn’t have been in better hands!
LS: I think for me, the scene where, also with KeyFace, I have the iron collar around my neck. At the very end of the film where, basically, I finally stab him with the cane. It was the last day of shooting and basically, we did some extra photography for three days and it was the last scene, and the last day, and it was last, last, last. And it went on and on! It was a real iron collar, it was no piece of aluminum! I mean, it was this really heavy collar against my jugular and my head was back and screaming, screaming, screaming. It was physically, a really hard scene to do and I’m grateful when I saw it put together and how beautifully it played and how scary it was.
I also talked with Insidious: The Last Key director Adam Robitel and writer/actor Leigh Whannell about the supernatural franchise, genre, and their roles in making it.
iHorror: Supernatural horror seems to be popular horror sub-genre, especially with mainstream audiences. With the Insidious franchise at the forefront, why do you think that is?
Leigh Whannell: It’s really hard to say. I mean, there’s something universal about supernatural horror. Every culture in the world has a version of the afterlife and can apply their culture to a supernatural horror film, you know? That’s why I think horror films, especially supernatural horror films travel so well. They can play anywhere in the world. A lot of genres don’t. Comedies can often be very specific to the country and culture that they’re playing in, whereas horror just has this total passport to go anywhere. I think it’s because those myths and those stories and these beliefs about not only the afterlife but demons and ghosts and hauntings, they’re everywhere. Every corner of the planet has a version of it and so, I think that’s part of the reason why they’re so popular.
Image via Comicbook
Adam Robitel: It’s also cyclical. Like, there was a time when slashers were in vogue for many, many years. You know, the spate of Friday The 13ths and Halloweens which I think ebbs and flows. I think supernatural horror tends to be a little more escapist and a little more of a fantasy element to it that I think we particularly now we’re in a very nihilistic time with the (coughs) current administration. I’ve been trying to get a slasher going and having this discussion why it comes and goes and why people suddenly- “buyers want slashers but they don’t want them right now” So, you know, it has something to do with the zeitgeist, not unlike the way during The Cold War, we saw a bunch of paranoid thrillers, you saw Godzilla come up out of nowhere. So I think it’s the zeitgeist and feeding the beast of what the content is. I think slashers are going to come back eventually. What do you think?
LW: Yeah, I agree with you it’s cyclical in that the different sub-genres of horror take their turning the spotlight.
AR: Do you think that the supernatural thing is overplayed?
LW: I think audience fatigue usually ends these trends.
LW: You know, eventually…
AR: A couple don’t work in the marketplace.
LW: It won’t play as well because it’s just been exhausted. And you’ll see something else. The trick is predicting what will be the next trend. You can’t.
IH: The Insidious series features a number of unique and different spirits and demons of various designs. Do each of you have a particular favorite from the franchise?
LW: I.. would probably say ‘The Man Who Can’t Breathe’ from the third Insidious film because I directed that film so it has a special place in my heart. There’s a lot of nostalgia and affection for that because I felt like I was the one really adding it. What about you, Adam?
Image via IMDB
AR: I loved the Lipstick Sting behind Patrick Wilson. I remember that scare legitimately making me jump out of my seat! I think it was so well executed and here, you look at it and you freeze-frame it now and it’s like “Wow! That’s a dude in Kabuki make-up” But it’s also a friend of ours who played it. So for those things I’d say that’s my favorite. I want to know what he’s making in that workshop with like all the puppetry and the cloven hooves and there’s something really endearing about it to me. Was he a satyr in his past life? Was he a shopkeeper? You know, was he a misunderstood toymaker? Like, what’s his backstory?
LW: That’s your next film!
AR: Yeah! (Laughs)
IH: Where do you see the story of Insidious going next?
LW: I haven’t really looked, so I can’t say I see anything like that. I see each movie as its own individual unit. I never think ahead. I always think it’s very presumptuous to start thinking about that. The next movie before you finished dealing with the film at hand. So I haven’t really put any thought into it. I do think that the loop of prequels we’ve been working on is now closed. So maybe a good direction would be to pick it up you know, in the modern era.
IH: Adam, going off your first movie The Taking Of Deborah Logan, what would you say you took or learned from that into the Insidious movies?
AR: Nothing beats a great performance. You can have all the special effects in the world, but if you don’t believe your actors, you don’t believe your characters. For me, it’s always about performance and whether it’s Jill Larson in The Taking Of Deborah Logan or Anne Ramsay or Lin Shaye, and her amazingly funny counterparts,you know, “The Angus And Lee Show” it’s about the chemistry. If you’re on the ride with them, then everything else falls into place. They are the special effects.
IH: Leigh, what would you say are the pros and cons of acting in a movie that you’ve also written?
LW: Well, the pros are definitely that you know what the writer was thinking. You know the material back to front. The cons are that you quickly discover in a scene that your dialogue doesn’t work. And you’re like “Dammit! This line that I thought was so great…” There’s no one to blame but yourself. But it’s quite fun. I love writing. I don’t know if I’m even qualified to direct something that I didn’t write, so to me it’s an essential part of the whole process.
AR: And he can solve things on the fly. You start feeling it when you do the table read and stuff if something isn’t working and the benefit of having the writer on set is you can literally make on the fly changes that really help.