Insidious: An examination of Lin Shaye As Elise Rainier


When looking back at influential horror films of the past decade there is certainly quite a list, whether that be the It or Conjuring franchises. However, no film franchise stands out like Insidious. From James Wan’s great directing to  Leigh Whannell’s amazing script writing this franchise stands out to be one of the most memorable horror series’ of the last decade.

What makes these films truly stand out and persist is the presence actress Lin Shaye brings to the lead character, Elise Rainier, in the Insidious franchise. It is her performance as Elise that demonstrates not only her ability to break molds but to convince the audience that they can be powerful as well. 

In a recent interview with Tiger Media Network Shaye said of her character, Elise that “she’s an unexpected hero.” What makes Elise Rainier and therefore Lin Shaye’s performance so inspiring is that you can be a woman, older, or different than the “stereotypical” leading role and still be a hero. 

Shaye as Elise Rainier first appears in the original Insidious film as a guide for the Lambert family who are experiencing a haunting of their son. From the moment Elise walks through the front door of the Lambert home to her final scene in the first film, Shaye’s performance is committed to the drama that is not often seen in horror films. Her character feels like a real human being, strong and willing to fight against the monsters plaguing this family. 

What’s more is that in the first film, while Elise isn’t the main protagonist, she seems to be favored by not only the camera, but the audience as well. It wasn’t just the audience either but even the director of the film, James Wan. To many fan’s dismay, the character dies in the first film, shocking everyone, including the director, Wan. 

“James Wan said the same thing,” Shaye said in regard to the despair fans felt of the character’s passing.

Shaye’s next appearance in the Insidious franchise would take form as Elise in the spirit world. She returns to again help save the Lambert family against her murderer Parker Crane and even gives his character peace. Elise’s character arc with Crane comes full circle through her compassion and forgiveness in helping him pass on through the spirit world. 

Shaye’s ability to give the hero peace and vanquish the bad guys seems to come from her distinct voice and facial expressions. Those of which make excellent shots to look at. She is a part of the fabric of the blue and red aesthetic of the franchise. 

While Lin’s performance in Insidious Chapter 2 is stellar in showing her badass performance fighting off evil entities in the Further, it was made clear by fans and creators that she needed to be the hero of the story. Then comes Insidious Chapter 3, the standout film of the franchise. This is where we get Lin Shaye front and center. 

This film takes place a bit before the Lambert Hauntings and shows Elise at a much more vulnerable point in her life. After the loss of her husband and her life being threatened by the monstrous bride in black, Elise is in between giving up and fighting back. This is an especially powerful theme to deliver to the audiences and the relatable emotions of loss help us sympathize with Elise even more. Her performance shows us a powerful woman in horror and in the world. She is not your typical teenage sex symbol Scream Queen. She is no Laurie Strode or Sidney Prescott – she is unexpected. Not only does Elise fight back but Shaye does it in style holding no punches.    

Insidious: The Last Key develops into Elise’s character even more with her past vulnerabilities: being abused, used, and suppressed in order to truly be free. Elise must fight the fears of her past. Shaye takes the role and truly gets inside it. She expresses the pain of her character through the performance of her dialogue and her physical presence. When literally revealing her scars Shaye is able to present the vulnerability of her character but never weakness. 

This again delivers that message about who Elise is and who the people watching at home can be. We still need our older generations to fight back, women are badass and are strong, those who have been abused can be courageous, and those who are different or unlikely are powerful. 

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