You know, I always disliked the term “scream queen” because I for one do not appreciate the blood-curdling scream of any given woman in any horror movie. Sometimes, it comes from female characters who are not even characterized as being overtly expressive in their emotions. It never comes from men even though men can and do scream just as well, if not louder. Plus, my favorite horror movie heroine, “Ripley” from “Alien” simply doesn’t scream but is still the greatest horror movie protagonist of all times.
So, let’s redefine the scream queen. Let’s make her a queen who makes people scream. Enter Lin Shaye, mostly known for the “Insidious”-franchise by the masses but also beloved in a gazillion independent and B-movie productions from the outright ridiculous to the downright terrifying.
If you want to get to know Lin Shaye as the contender for the scariest scream queen, I present my suggestions for a very frightening Lin Shaye appreciation movie marathon.
(Small spoilers ahead)
A random early appearance: “Nightmare on Elm Street”
Plot: Kids get mysteriously murdered in their sleep by Freddy Kruger, who years ago died in a fire.
Is it creepy? Well, if you scare easy and dislike fleshy tongues
A staple of a true scream queen is random, short appearances in a lot of old school horror movies. Shaye did a lot of them. “Alone in the Dark”, “Jekyll and Hyde … Together Again”, “Critters”, “The Hidden” and more. But for the fun of it, let’s watch a movie that is not just retro but also fun and amazing and watch “Nightmare on Elm Street” which features her as a teacher.
A fun, silly gore fest: “2001 Maniacs”
Plot: Some random hot teenagers end up in a Southern town full of racist murderers.
Is it creepy? If you think that dumb hot teenagers are creepy, then yes.
Personally, I am not that much into highly gory horror comedies but I get their appeal. Plus, “2001 Maniacs” is just so over the top that it’s especially fun to watch with friends (plus, you really don’t have to keep track of the plot). It also features one of my all-time favorite character actors/weirdos Peter Stormare AND Peter Englund, because why not, so let’s get hootin’ and hollerin’
A weird, creepy indie movie: “Dead End”
Plot: Taking a shortcut puts a disfunctional family in spooky peril.
Is it creepy? Yes, but then immediately after it will be very funny, so it is overall confusing but in a good way.
Is it a comedy, is it a psychothriller, is it a ghost story? No one knows with “Dead End” because it has all that and an infamous “When Harry met Sally”-hommage that is all kinds of wrong. This movie scared me a lot when I first saw it. It’s a little less scary nowadays but still intriguing and very entertaining. It also has Ray Wise as Lin’s movie-husband which is a horror movie match made in heaven and worth the performances alone.
The gigantic blockbuster franchise: “Insidious”
Plot: Everyone is possessed or haunted by demons and Lin Shaye is the only one who can speak with the ghosties. Also: ghost dimensions with scary nuns!
Is it creepy? At times it is but then it will be so cheesy that you roll your eyes so much that you miss the next scare.
I love that Shaye got into this franchise because it opened up her talents to a wider audience and it probably made a lot more money than those b-movies. Plus, she probably was happy to play the protagonist instead of the villain for once and show a different side of her skills.
But to be honest: Shaye is underused as an actress in the movies, even in the sequels where she basically plays the protagonist. As great as she is as the story’s medium, Shaye’s true talent lies in those weird, off-putting, slightly absurd characters and “Elise Rainier” is none of that, unfortunately. I also am not the big James Wan-fan that apparently everyone else is because he always combines some great scares with cheesy plot ideas and weird make-up choices.
But hey, it’s still entertaining enough for a rewatch. I would, however, skip the “Chapter 2” (a story that is a total horror movie clichè). I really loved “Chapter 3”, though and am a bit lukewarm on the fourth part “The Last Key”. Well, you pick your favorite. My advice: #3 stands on its own, #2 is weird if you don’t know #1 and #4 probably still makes sense if you haven’t seen any previous movie but could be a little confusing.
(This is the trailer for #3 which I like the best of the entire franchise, it has a different feel and is really creepy in parts)
The “Oh my god, she can be so creepy, I want to hide under my bed”-movie: “The Midnight Man”
Plot: A deadly game that no one ever would want to play in real life gets played by fictional dumb teenagers with obviously horrible consequences.
Is it creepy? Yes, yes it is. Not consistently, but enough to stay with you a little while after. Let’s watch an episode of “Steven Universe” before going to sleep, ok?
I don’t even know about the plot, it’s so weird, at one point (I won’t spoiler too much), the whole story turns into the outright absurd BUT Lin Shaye is absolutely terrifying as a creepy old grandma, she’s mesmerizing and when you see her in this movie, you know why I think that she is underused in “Insidious”. She is SO GOOD scarying everything out of you that isn’t attached to some bones.
This, plus a decent idea for the spooky elements lends for a scary albeit slightly absurd finale to our Lin Shaye appreciation scream fest.