The prolific Lin Shaye chats about her role in the new horror film, The Call, as well as recent trends in horror and where the genre is heading.
The Call is a 2020 horror movie that features a magnetic performance from Lin Shaye, who spoke to ScreenRant about her experiences working on The Call as well as her storied career as a prolific actor within the horror genre.
Line Shaye’s legendary film career has spanned over forty years; she’s become one of the most beloved and dependable names in horror. Shaye has turned out memorable performances for decades, but in more recent years she’s perhaps become best known for her role as Elise Rainier, the lifeblood of the Insidious movie franchise, or even her turn in Nicolas Pesce’s recent reboot of the ghost-filled Grudge franchise. Shaye’s latest film, The Call, features another iconic performance in this blend of different horror sensibilities.
Directed by Timothy Woodward Jr., The Call looks at a group of teens who find themselves caught in a surreal bargain with the afterlife once they’ve terrorized the peace of a grieving couple, played by Shaye and Tobin Bell, who is best known for his work as Jigsaw, the primary villain of the Saw franchise. It soon becomes clear that these attempts to turn these people into the local boogeymen may have been too effective and a vendetta from beyond the grave threatens them all. ScreenRant was fortunate enough to talk with Lin Shaye about her role in this new eerie horror movie, the changes that she’s noticed in the horror genre, and if audiences can expect a return to the paranormal Insidious franchise.
ScreenRant: Your first scene in this film is so powerful and there’s just so much emotion present through it. Talk about all of the rage that fuels this character and keeps her going.
Lin Shaye: That’s a big question! I think her rage really stems from her sensitivity to being bullied by these kids who have sort of destroyed her. For me, that’s kind of the theme of the film: what meanness can do to a person. So I think for her it’s built up rage and sadness. She’s totally lost herself and physically deteriorated. The harassment continues.
The way that Timothy [Woodward Jr.] directs the scene where they hurl that rock through her window is really great. It truly sets me up to be a reactor to what’s going on in a very powerful way. So I tried to find those places in myself too, when people hurt you. You really have no recourse other than to just express yourself. That can be a very lonely place. I felt the power of myself when I delivered that scene.
ScreenRant: It’s so interesting because for the bulk of the film we’re following characters who are honestly more like the villains. Your character is treated like the boogeyman, but she and her husband are the real victims here.
Lin Shaye: I agree. I totally agree. And Tobin [Bell] was a real treat to work with. I had never met him before, but we really had such a lovely simpatico together. I felt it when we met each other. There was this sweet recognition and appreciation of each other, but it’s also there on the screen. So I think that also amplifies the difference between who we are, what I become, and even who he becomes as a result of a violence. It’s unfortunately a pretty common theme right now, isn’t it?
ScreenRant: You and Tobin really do have such good chemistry here and I love how he brings out this softer side to your character and balances her out. It’s interesting because your material really opens this bigger conversation on the nature of trauma and how it can really affect the people who we become in life.
Lin Shaye: Thank you. I feel really good about tapping into all of that. Movies like this, meaning horror films, can take a lot of different roots. As an actor I feel a certain responsibility to always look for the big idea in the movie, even if it’s just supposed to be entertainment, or a comedy, or a “Spooky Booky Man” movie. It doesn’t matter. There still needs to be a message about living that’s embedded in the writing, otherwise why tell this story? A story supposed to have a moral of some kind to it. Sometimes a movie can come to an abrupt end, but that can also be its own moral in a way.
So I’m grateful to hear you discuss the film on this deeper level, especially with where our world is right now. I don’t even mean on a political level, but just humanely, we’re not very nice animals at the end of the day! Horses are a nice animal, they react to something in a way that makes sense. Humans are the only animal that create negativity for themselves. So the film comes at an oddly appropriate time. People will definitely find entertainment in the movie because I also think it’s a very scary film, but I’m glad you recognized what I was hoping to convey.
ScreenRant: You previously worked together with Timothy Woodward Jr. on The Final Wish, was it nice to get to work with him again here and continue that relationship?
Lin Shaye: Totally. Timothy is a really interesting man. He’s like nobody I’ve ever met, not just as a director, but as a man. He’s becoming a really first class director in terms of how he works with his actors and how he approaches his material. We did meet on The Final Wish and in that case he actually kind of hunted me down, which was an interesting experience. Initially the script was not completely filled out so I kept turning the project down. He was just relentless, which I kind of loved about him because you need to be a little relentless to get what you want and to succeed. So the bottom line was that I had turned down the role, but wanted to take him out to lunch to thank him. Of course, over the course of that lunch he convinced me to do the movie! I’ve loved him ever since.
I thought The Final Wish really turned out great. He embraced the ideas that that I wanted to do with my character and the script took some wonderful changes. Jeffrey Reddick did a beautiful job with that. So when The Call came to us we thought that Timothy would be great to direct it. So we got the script to him and he was able to run with it. In six weeks he had the money and had everything set up. He’s such an extraordinary doer. God bless him for that because that’s the key. You can think about it all you want, but it’s got to get done. It was a pleasure to work with him.
ScreenRant: You have such an acclaimed career, Lin, but what have you noticed changed over your time working in the horror genre?
Lin Shaye: A good story is a good story. In my opinion there are two kinds of horror films: there are some that are gory and violent—which The Call has plenty of—and honestly I’ve never been in a film that’s gory to that degree. There’s not a drop of blood in the Insidious films. They’re all psychological. The scare comes from within, which is why James Wan and Leigh Whannell are so skilled. Our times kind of dictate what people want to watch and I don’t even know how to describe where we’re at right now or what people really want to watch.
There’s so much real violence, disquiet, and fear going on right now on a huge scale that I’ve never before experienced. And I’m old! I think that we don’t yet have the answer on how the content of entertainment might shift. But in terms of horror films, I still go back to story. If it’s got a good story and interesting characters then there’s nothing more important. People want a good story with an interesting ending.
ScreenRant: I really love the Insidious films and how they kind of turned you into its superhero over time. With so many old franchises returning, has there been any talk on trying to do more with those movies?
Lin Shaye: There was some ideas that James had in play after we finished the fourth one. I honestly never thought there’d be four of them. I thought we made a movie, you know? James even said to me, “Maybe we shouldn’t kill you in case there’s another one.” I was like, “Get rid of me! It’ll be fine!” Lo and behold, we had to go and redo the whole idea by going into the prequels.
I haven’t heard anything recent on any of that. Everybody is kind of busy in their pods right now trying to figure out what’s happening. I think a lot more will be revealed once the world is back on track. Movies are at least still considered to be entertainment. People are still writing stories and that will never ever end. I think there’s a bright future ahead, but it’ll be a bit of time before we know the scale or the types of stories that people want to hear.
The Call will be released in theaters on October 2nd
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