By MICHAEL GINGOLD
Lin Shaye has become a familiar presence in horror cinema over the past decade—in INSIDIOUS, its sequels and numerous other supernatural chillers. Now she’s taking part in the reboot of a modern Japanese occult classic, and she discusses her role below.
In THE GRUDGE, the new English-language update of Takashi Shimizu’s JU-ON films (and his pair of previous GRUDGE movies) that’s now in theaters, Shaye plays Faith Matheson, one of several people in the town of Cross River, PA who become infected by the Japanese-born curse. Already afflicted by dementia and being cared for by her longtime husband (Frankie Faison), she spirals downward fast and dangerously when the malignance takes hold. Written and directed by Nicolas Pesce (THE EYES OF MY MOTHER, PIERCING), who discusses the film here, THE GRUDGE 2020 is grittier and gorier than its predecessors, earning the first R rating for the theatrical franchise. We talked with Shaye at this past fall’s New York Comic-Con.
Were you shocked by some of the places this film went, considering that the previous GRUDGE movies were more subtle in their horrors?
I actually was, because to be honest, I had no idea what to expect. I was most excited and grateful that Sony wanted to have me in the movie, to be asked to the dance, because you never know if you’re going to be asked or stand on the side for a while. When I read the script, like any actress, I looked for my part first [laughs]—you can’t help it—and as I read it, I thought Faith would be interesting to play. I was very excited to be playing an older character who has dementia, but then realizes that’s the least of her problems. And then there are different pockets of storylines, different families who have an issue with this infection—which is what THE GRUDGE is all about. There are elements of Japan in this story, and it has now spread to the United States and it’s all sort of tied together, this growing mythology that has now made its way to our country, affecting the detective, this woman who has dementia, this other woman who’s pregnant. So the script had a lot of elements that were very interesting about how evil affects each of us a little bit differently, and the beginning of that evil and where it takes you as a person. So the characters in general became very interesting to me, not just my own.
And I was very excited to work with Nicolas; I had seen THE EYES OF MY MOTHER, and I thought it was one of the scariest films I had ever seen. There was something about it, and I kept trying to figure out what it was, and what I told him was that he strikes me as the Salvador Dali of filmmaking, because he takes traditional imagery and turns it around and puts it in different places, so that the juxtaposition creates real discomfort. I truly believe he has a sensibility and an understanding of human elements and supernatural elements and evil, and that can turn a film into something very special.
You’ve appeared in a number of horror movies informed by Asian sensibilities, like the INSIDIOUS series. Did you enjoy being part of one directly based on a Japanese genre film?
I hadn’t thought about that, but yes, it was. Though again, the most exciting part was that Nick was so much fun to work with, and so interesting, and so open to my ideas. And he inspired ideas in me.
Was there anything significant that you contributed in terms of your character?
Oh yes, but I can’t tell you [laughs]. The elements were there, and a lot of the really gnarly stuff was in the script.
How was it working with the blood and prosthetics involved in your more extreme scenes?
It’s really fun doing that stuff, and it’s really hard. To get it right so it looks real on camera, and timing things, it’s very complicated. Without giving too much away, the severing of certain parts, it’s pretty scientific. I mean, the special effects people have their whole thing with pumping blood, etc., and it’s kind of fascinating, but it’s not easy. All the pieces have to come together, and this is the first time I’ve ever worked with those kinds of apparatuses. I’ve worked with blood before, plenty of times, but this was a little bit more complicated, because it had to do with molding certain parts of my body, and they had only run off a certain amount of pieces, so you couldn’t screw it up. If you did the first time, you could go to the next one, but if you screwed that one up, you were in trouble! So there was a certain amount of pressure.
Did you look back at the previous GRUDGE and JU-ON films to prepare for this one?
No, I did not. I had seen the first one, and I really liked it; it was scary. But that was the only one, and I hadn’t seen it in a long time. I let Nick be in charge of that, and I got more invested in the minutiae of my character, and make sure she fit into the broader story.
How was it working with Frankie Faison?
The best, the best. He was game for anything, and we loved each other immediately. He was totally present, a fantastic person and actor. Our first scene together was this lovely scene of her having a good day with her dementia and reminiscing about their life in the past, and remembering stuff—she has memories that she’s forgotten she had. It’s a beautiful little scene, and we immediately clicked. We’re recalling beautiful moments in summer together, and it’s sort of lighthearted, the love that we had for each other. And then you begin to see her…first of all decline because of the dementia, but then she becomes infected, and evil destroys all of it. I loved the challenge of that.