They call Lin Shaye “The Godmother of Horror.” Read her listed credits on the Internet Movie Database and you start to see why.
“It reads like Al Capone’s rap sheet!” cracks writer/director Leigh Whannell. Some 179 acting credits, roles ranging from “The Long Riders” to “There’s Something About Mary,” comedies and dramas, Westerns — and most especially, scary movies.
“She has so many connections to horror, going all the way back to her brother, Robert, who shepherded the ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ films into theaters,” Whannell, who directed Shaye in “Insidious Chapter 3,” marvels. Robert Shaye was head of New Line Cinema when that studio launched the “Elm Street” series, with a nice small role for his sister Lin, included. “It’s a first family of horror!”
At 71, Shaye has more movies in the can, ready for release, than stars and starlets a fraction of her age. But those titles! “Bayou Tales”, “Abattoir, “Tales of Halloween,” “Killing Winston Jones.”
OK, that last one’s a comedy. Shaye’s fearlessness isn’t limited to picking up a flashlight and going down in a basement that she is pretty sure a demon is visiting.
“Most women my age are eating lime jello for lunch,” Shaye cracks. “But not me, baby! Bring on the monsters, the ghosts, the demons!”
Shaye turns up in so many horror films it’s as if the filmmakers, knowing her pedigree, are looking for a good luck charm.
“She’s the calm in the middle of the storm,” says Timothy Anderson, a horror filmmaker and reviewer for Bloodydisgusting.com. ” If Lin Shaye is there to save the day, it seems like everything might just turn out fine. Of course that’s rarely the case.”
And so it is with “Insidious: Chapter 3.” Actor and screenwriter Leigh Whannell launched his career with “Saw,” and scripted the original “Insidious.” To make his directing debut with “Chapter 3,” he wanted “a friendly face,” Shaye, back on set. “The only problem with that? I killed her character (Elise, a demon-chasing psychic) off in the first film!”
A prequel was born, and with it, a rare leading role for Shaye.
“Elise is looking at her own mortality, and that’s a very dark place to start” developing a character, Shaye says. “She’s in this house that she’s kind of afraid to leave. This teenage girl comes to visit her, wanting to talk to her dead mother, and Elise sees the risks in that and that’s what gets her out of her pajamas and out of her house.”
Doing horror conventions puts Shaye in direct touch with the fans of the genre, “and from them, I learn what really scares people.”
What about her? An in-demand actress and admitted animal fanatic who shares her life with cats and a dog, she doesn’t worry about becoming “a cat lady.” But even though she’s “never aware of my actual age…I’m having too much fun to think about that,” Shaye has her fears. And they have to do with mortality.
“I hate the idea of losing my independence, having my health turn bad. When you feel bad, that puts an edge on everything you do.
She’s a true believer in “the good you put out there coming back, and the bad — all those things these movies have in them.
“So my advice? Even when life is long, it’s a short little millisecond that we’re on this planet. Be in the moment. Pet your dog.”
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