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Rage, fear in 'The Grudge' remake: An interview with 'Queen of Horror' Lin Shaye

MANILA, Philippines – For those who were old enough to squirm and squeal at 2000's Japanese horror film The Grudge... what do you remember of the cult classic?

A 2020 remake of The Grudge premieres in Philippine theaters on Wednesday, January 15.

The film, directed by 29-year-old horror filmmaker Nicolas Pesche, comes 16 years after its first American version in 2004, directed by Sam Raimi (Spider-Man, Drag Me To Hell), and 20 years after the original Ju-on: The Grudge, directed by Takashi Shimizu, premiered.

THE GRUDGE 2020. Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures


Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures

Pesche's 2020 adaptation is the first to receive an R-rating in the US, bringing a different "brand of scares," according to The Grudge star Lin Shaye, who plays Faith Matheson in the film, an elderly woman who suffers from dementia.

Shaye, who is dubbed "Queen of Horror" and "Scream Queen" for her decades-long experience in the horror genre (Insidious, Nightmare on Elm Street, Ouija, Amityville: A New Generation, The Final Wish), talked to Rappler about her latest scare venture – why she jumped on board, what she loved about her latest role, and what's in store for old and new fans of the iconic franchise.

What was it like joining The Grudge? What made you jump on board this remake of a classic?

Lin: I was already very interested in the character and the story, regardless of the franchise, because the theme of "rage" is very current to me. I think it's almost more current now in 2020 than it was when Ju-on was first done in 2000.

We live in a very volatile world right now. People are unhappy, and the theme of this story has to do with the deteroriation that rage can cause to people. The character I play, Faith Matheson, suffers from dementia, which is also a very current and prevalent disorder, because people are living longer now than they used to. 

There are 3 women who are the main focus in the film, from 3 separate generations: there's a young woman who's pregnant with a child that might be born with a disability and has to decide if she wants to abort the baby or not. There's a young detective who is not married, a single mom, but with a career. Then there's Faith, who has been married happily for 50 years to a man she loves, but she's losing her mind completely. I think all 3 of those issues are very current right now.

To top it all of – Nicolas Pesche is a genius! I've seen his first movie, Eyes Of My Mother, and I was so impressed with that being a filmmaker's first movie. 

FILMING. Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures


Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures

Nicolas has this ability to turn ordinary events and actions on people's heads. Suddenly, you don't know why you're uncomfortable. He finds a juxtaposition within his story that causes tremendous discomfort. I was fascinated by that. When I met him, I was even more delighted. He's this darling 29-year-old whose knowledge of film was extraordinary for a young man. I was really excited to be invited in. Thanks, Nick!

How is this The Grudge different from all the horror films you've done? How would you describe this remake's brand of horror?

Lin: This brand of horror is quite sophisticated because it does deal with this passion of "rage." Other horror films try to scare you, because that's kind of their job. A lot of it are mechanical scares that are fun. You jump, the door opens, it closes.

SCARES. Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures


Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures

This has some of that in there too, because that's part of the fun of going to the movies. But this deals with a very serious subject matter, in my opinion. I think that's what makes it special.

You are called "The Queen of Horror," and are very well-versed in the movie genre. How do you think horror has evolved in movies throughout the years?

Lin: Horror tries to catch up with the times. Filmmakers now were kids in the 2000s – I mean, Nicholas in 2000 was 9 years old. 

I think, as our world is changing, the storylines need to be more sophisticated, but the horror community also needs to remain somewhat naive. There's a formula to scaring people. Fear is very interesting; it's obviously an emotion we all have. Some of us thrive in it, some of us run away from it. I think good horror films sort of stimulate those both sides in people.

FAITH MATHESON. Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures


Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures


It's fun to see a horror film in the theater. I recommend that than watching it on your iPad, I'm sorry. You have to be in a community of fear to experience how much fun and exciting it is to be terrified in public with people you don't know. So, I think horror has evolved in terms of storytelling in some respects, but I think the elements of fear are the same.

What did you enjoy the most about playing this role, whether it was in-character or behind-the-scenes?

Lin: What I enjoyed the most was finding out who this woman was, which is what interests me about acting, period. It's like stepping into the world of someone besides myself, but is totally still myself.

LIN SHAYE. Photo by Kristina Bumphrey/StarPix


Photo by Kristina Bumphrey/StarPix

Faith was a challenge in a way – there was a scene not included in the film. It was actually my jumping off point for the character. It will be in the director's cut. It shows Faith and her husband, and she's having a good day. Dementia is a very odd disorder because there are days that you're quite lucid, you remember your past, who you're with. The next day, you can be totally comatose, and not have any idea what room or you're in or who's sitting next to you!

Anyway, she was having a good day. She and her husband are sitting on the couch, reminscing about the past – 50 years of marriage, a wonderful summer at the lake, a funny anecdote about a bird in the cabin – it was a whimsical, beautiful story. That was the start of the character – the love she had with her husband, which made the deteroriation of the dementia even more sad.

PLEA FOR HELP. Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures


Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures

When she opened herself up to the "Grudge," to the final destruction of self, it was even more horrifying. I try and look at the details of the story to create the character. From there, I let my imagination fill in the blanks. Nick gave me a very strong starting point. 

What can fans expect from this movie? Fans of yours, the original movie, and horror in general? 

Lin: They can expect something the same and different, which is something you kind of hope for in a franchise, because there's a familiarity, which is why were making it on some level. There's a love for that premise.

Nick was saying yesterday that he tried to fulfill the expectations audiences will have, but within that, update it and provide them something new and intense that they're not expecting. That's what you're going to get – a little bit of the past and a lot of "bing-bang- bong!" New stuff.

THE GRUDGE TEAM. L-R: Betty Gilpin, Lin Shaye, Nicholas Pesce, Sam Raimi, and Andrea Riseborough. Photo by Kristina Bumphrey/StarPix

THE GRUDGE TEAM. L-R: Betty Gilpin, Lin Shaye, Nicholas Pesce, Sam Raimi, and Andrea Riseborough.

Photo by Kristina Bumphrey/StarPix

The core of the story is 3 different women of 3 different generations, and what rage does. It's an infection of rage. And that's what The Grudge is. That's incredibly current, from 20 years ago to now. Nothing good comes from rage.

Do you have a message you want to share to your fans in the Philippines?

Lin: Thank you for watching! I wish I could meet every single of you. I love meeting people that are inspired by something that is very dear to me. I always hope I provide you with both entertainment and philosophy about real life – the way you live your life. We need to teach each other a little bit, so I'm hoping that the beings I get to pretend to be also inspire you to be a better person. –

Steph Arnaldo

If she’s not writing about food, she’s probably thinking about it. From advertising copywriter to freelance feature writer, Steph Arnaldo finally turned her part-time passion into a full-time career. She’s written about food, lifestyle, and wellness for Rappler since 2018.