An Interview With Lin Shaye and Leigh Whannell At The INSIDIOUS: THE LAST KEY Blu Ray Release!
The fourth and well-received installment in the Insidious franchise, The Last Key was released on Blu-ray and DVD on April 3rd. In celebration of the film’s release, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment hosted an evening "Into The Further" featuring actual props from the set, a chilling photo booth, and cast and crew guests of honor. At the end of the evening, I was presented with the delightful opportunity to sit down with the film’s star Lin Shaye and screenwriter Leigh Whannell to discuss everything from the continuation of the Insidious franchise to real-life inner demons.
Ghastly Grinning (GG): Lin, You have had quite a diverse film career and yet you keep returning to the horror genre. What about the genre appeals to you?
Lin Shaye (LS): I’m really a story teller, so it’s not so much about genre for me as it is about a good story. Gratefully, the last good stories that I’ve heard lately were in the horror genre. I’m also fascinated by the emotion of fear. I think it’s a really interesting thing to explore and that film has a way of provoking it and making people experience it, especially in the theater together. It’s powerful. You’re around three hundred people and everybody is experiencing the same emotion in a different way. As an actor, I’m interested in emotions and providing people with opportunities to feel.
GG: Perhaps because of your ability to instill such emotions, you have remained prevalent among serious horror fans for decades but the Insidious franchise has brought you into a whole new level of fame. When you read the script for the first Insidious film, did you expect Elise to become such an iconic character?
LS: I did not. I met James Wan while doing a short film with Leigh Whannell called Doggie Heaven in which Leigh and I played opposite each other. That was my first experience with both James and Leigh. Shortly thereafter, James called me and said, “I’ve got this script and I think we’re going to get it done,” he and Leigh, who were partners on Saw. James sent the script over and I actually read it in bed and it was so scary that I locked it in the closet downstairs. I’m not superstitious… well, I guess that I was. Because I tiptoed downstairs to try not to wake anything up in the script [laughs]. The role of Elise was wonderful. I just remember that she talked a lot but it was extremely well written by Leigh. It was very organized about introducing this world of “The Further,” which was kind of my [Elise’s] job in the script. I don’t ever go into anything thinking it’s going to anything other than what it is and hopefully stay in the moment and make it as good as possible.
GG: Leigh, what were some deciding factors in handing the director role to Adam Robitel as opposed to directing The Last Key yourself or having James Wan direct?
Leigh Whannell (LW): James had truly moved on at this point. He was doing THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS 7… or 8…
LS: Or 11… [laughs]
LW: [Laughs] … Or 11 maybe. I had directed Insidious: Chapter 3 and had a great time doing it. But one thing that directing the third Insidious film did for me was give me the directing bug. I knew that I would direct a film one day. It was something that I always planned on doing. Of course, tomorrow never comes, you know. It was something that I always pushed away and then the opportunity just landed in my lap. So, I went for it and I really loved it. I surprised myself.
LS: Leigh was upbeat and optimistic every day.
LW: I just loved every aspect of directing. I found it to be like an extension of writing. I’ve been screenwriting for a long time and usually what happens is you finish writing your script and you make the film in your head. Then you hand the film off to someone else and watch them make a different movie than the one in your head. I loved being able to see the story through to its final destination. So, I decided that I wanted to do something else and make something outside of my comfort zone. In other words, I didn’t want my first film to be Insidious: Chapter 3 and my second film to be Insidious 4. I wanted to move on and establish myself in my own right. The Insidious movies have a template. It’s a franchise. So, I would essentially have to stick to the template that James [Wan] created. That’s why I decided to hand it off to someone else and we found Adam [Robitel].
LS: Can I ask a quick question? Did The Last Key fulfill itself when you directed it from what you had written on the page now that you have experienced directing or was this also different from you you had imagined?
LW: There are always changes. No matter how much you try to plan in your head when you’re writing something, when you get to set, the movie changes. They say that there are three movies… and I might be mangling this metaphor. But there’s the movie that you write, the movie that you shoot, and the movie that the movie that you edit. And it the movie that you end up with is never exactly what you pictured but at least you only have yourself to blame [when you’re the writer and the director]. I loved being the person to make all those final decisions. It gives you that sense of authorship.
GG: In The Last Key, Elise literally battles her own demons. Lin, what are some real-life demons that you have had to battle and how did you overcome them?
LS: I try not to dwell on things that I can’t do as best as I can, which I think creates demons when you feel frustrated. Obviously, there are insecurities. Sometimes I feel insecure or stupid like I don’t know anything because I’m not a big reader. I’ve never been a very good reader. I think I’ve had strong life experiences through doing, and through listening, and seeing visually but not in books. So, I’ve always felt a deficit a little bit in terms of my intellect.
LW: But you are emotionally intelligent.
LS: Oh, I don’t know. I’m an emotional wreck [laughs].
LW: It makes you a perfect actor.
LS: I’m very in touch with my feelings and all those fears. But I don’t really— and gratefully— don’t feel afraid of a lot of things. For better and for worse, I don’t have a lot of fear.
GG: Well, that’s incredibly admirable. And speaking of fear, Leigh, can we expect another chapter in the Insidious franchise?
LW: I don’t know. I’m sure if Jason Blum was sitting here, he would say, “Absolutely!” But I haven’t given it any thought. It’s interesting… the gap between when an audience sees the film and when the filmmaker and actors finish making the movie. We shot The Last Key in 2016 and since then I’ve made a whole other movie and Lin has gone off and acted a bunch. In a way, I feel very divorced mentally from this film. It feels like it was a long time ago. So, I haven’t put any thought into the Insidious world. I’ve been living in this other world right now. But we’ll see. I am really happy that The Last Key connected with audiences so well. It’s been a big hit, especially internationally, and that’s been really gratifying to see that people still have a hunger or desire to see these films. A lot of horror franchises run out of steam.
LS: The Insidious films are rooted in family and the problems that families can have. And I think The Last Key in particular has a lot of nerve endings in it, especially dealing with child abuse and a dysfunctional family. I think those are usually secrets that children keep to themselves and I think the young people who see this movie are stimulated with dialogue. On that level, I found it very compelling to be involved in that kind of an example of a hard life and how you can grow out of that and still be a success. I think there are big story elements in this that are part of its success. People have told me that they have been very moved by this film, and that they cry, and that they are really emotionally involved in the story. So, congratulations to everyone who worked on The Last Key.