Insidious 5's ending might not be as "happy" as you think, says star Lin Shaye

Lin Shaye as Elise in Insidious: The Red Door
(Image credit: Sony Pictures Releasing/Blumhouse)

This article contains spoilers for Insidious: The Red Door. If you've yet to watch the movie, and don't want to know how it ends, turn back now.

Despite being killed off in the very first instalment, Lin Shaye's medium Elise Rainier has popped up in every Insidious sequel since; in flashbacks, prequel sequences, and, well, the afterlife. While her screen-time varies vastly between films, her role is always important, whether she's the main character – like in Insidious: The Last Key – or simply helping the franchise's various protagonists navigate terrifying hauntings and possessions. 

"It's remarkable," Shaye tells GamesRadar+, when we ask how it feels to still be playing Elise 13 years after she was strangled to death on screen. "I just remember when we were shooting the first film with [director] James Wan and [writer] Leigh Whannell, and we were all very excited. It was a very short shoot, just three weeks, and we weren't sure what was going to happen you know? You don't even know if it'll ever get released."

"With killing Elise, I remember James saying to me; 'Wait? What happens if we want her to come back? Maybe we shouldn't kill you?' I said, 'Nah, get rid of her,'" Shaye laughs. "And then, to my delight, audiences were attracted to the character and I'm thrilled that I'm still a part of this, and apparently a big part of it. No one is more surprised than me. I do my best, always, but I never have any real expectations other than what's happening now, so I'm thrilled."

In the latest outing, Insidious: The Red Door, Elise is somewhat of a unknowing guide to art student Dalton (Ty Simpkins) and his pal Chris (Sinclair Daniel), who gain some valuable knowledge when they find an old YouTube clip of Elise explaining the dimension-hopping act of astral projection and spirit realm The Further. In the video, she urges those who go wandering to the other side to "keep a steady stride", so that the jealous dead are less able to latch onto their living visitors. In a way, the line encompasses the movie's central theme of persevering, moving on, and not allowing yourself to get lost in the past. Well, if you're more of a glass-half-full person, anyway...

After Dalton saves his father Josh (Patrick Wilson, here making his directorial debut) from the malevolent Lipstick Face Demon's claws in The Further by painting over his creepy red door sketch, Josh sees Elise's ghost in the real world. Dressed all in white, there's an ethereal quality to Elise in the scene, which happens right before the credits roll. On the surface, it feels as close to a happy ending as an Insidious movie can feasibly get, seemingly suggesting that she's finally at peace and no longer has unfinished business, forced to dwell in The Further forever, as she reminds Josh to "keep a steady stride". For Shaye, though, it could just as easily be an ominous warning as it could be words of encouragement.

"It depends on what your mindset as a viewer is, as to how you're going to take it," she says, pointing out that the phrase could conjure up the idea of running from something. "You're going to make it your own and have your own takeaway, and I always think that's a wonderful way to end a film, you know? It opens it up for the viewers' minds, as well as for the characters in the film. I feel very good about that." 

Patrick Wilson as Josh in Insidious: The Red Door

(Image credit: Sony/Blumhouse)

During our chat, Shaye goes on to reveal that the film initially ended in a different way, with a conclusion that was much more definitive – though she won't elaborate on the details of its original finale. Looking back on filming, she recalls chatting with Wilson and writer Scott Teems about switching to something more ambiguous, and how the duo went for her idea. 

"I feel very proud of that [moment]," Shaye adds. "They had written an 'everything is going to be great' scene and I said, 'that's not how you end this movie.' I talked to Patrick about it, about how the idea of keeping a steady stride had a lot of different implications. Even for me as I say it now, it's making me think about moving straight forward in your life and having to cancel out a lot of the noise around you in order to get to where you want to go. That's a very powerful message, and one that has a lot of both good and bad possibilities. It also keeps it open-ended for other chapters."

"It was wonderful. Patrick and Rose are both very, very special people; not just as actors, but as people. They're just great, great people with tremendous humor, integrity, intelligence... They understand the characters," she notes, before going on to sing Wilson's praises. "Patrick was juggling many, many decisions and many departments while starring in the film, and I actually just saw the finished product about a week ago and it's just spectacular. 

"I mean, he is a behemoth. I'm not sure that's the appropriate word for for him, but he can do everything and he did it so beautifully and so elegantly. The film itself is very elegant but it's also very scary and maybe it's partly because there is that juxtaposition there. I don't get scared nowadays, I'm like, 'eh, the bad guys, the good guys, whatever' but this is a scary movie."

Despite its frights, all of the Lamberts make it out of Insidious 5. The franchise itself has seen very little death when it comes to its heroes, in fairness, so there's always a possibility of certain characters popping up later down the line. For now, though, "this apparently is the end of the saga of the Lambert family", with spin-off Thread: An Insidious Tale, fronted by Mandy Moore and Kumail Nanjiani, in the pipeline. However, "it might not be for Elise," Shaye teases. "I'm a ghost, I can always come back." At this rate, we'd bet on it.

Insidious: The Red Door is in cinemas now. For more, check out our interviews with Patrick Wilson, as well as Sinclair Daniel and Ty Simpkins. If horror isn't your bag, get up to speed with the most exciting upcoming movies heading our way throughout 2023 and beyond.

Amy West

I am an Entertainment Writer here at GamesRadar+, covering all things TV and film across our Total Film and SFX sections. Elsewhere, my words have been published by the likes of Digital Spy, SciFiNow, PinkNews, FANDOM, Radio Times, and Total Film magazine.