When it comes to two powerhouses in horror, Lin Shaye from the Insidious franchise and Tobin Bell from the Saw franchise make for one remarkable team in the film The Call. The film follows an elderly couple in 1987, who enact supernatural revenge on youths after they drive the wife Edith (Shaye) to suicide. I spoke to Shaye about her creative input working with director Timothy Woodward Jr, her chemistry with Bell, and how current themes shaped the story. "I thought it was a throwback horror film on some levels," Shaye said. "It was very different when I read the original script. There was quite a bit of work on it, given the ideas." One specific detail she wanted for Edith was that she didn't want her to be a witch, but instead turn to witchcraft out of desperation.
"I wanted to be a supernatural story," she continued. "I wanted the story about a woman who was tortured pretty much and lost her own humanity through these kids who rob her of her joy. Her husband is trying to protect her, but he can't protect her from the vulnerability she has. It's the person she is. I thought that was interesting. Witchcraft came out of her desire to find answers on how to solve the problem, and I think that's how people get attracted to the occult and all kinds of things. They're looking for answers and don't have one. There are promises all over the place in things like witchcraft, and I believe in everything, but I didn't want that to be the source of the story." Another way Shaye helped shaped the script was she wanted to make Edith more into a tragic character and a true victim. "That's what attracted me," she said. "Patrick Stibbs, the writer, the manager, and I hammered out a lot of the storyline in a way poignant. In the original script, she dies of cancer. I thought it was much more powerful for her to take her own life without giving everything away here."
Shaye acknowledges the kind of opportunity combining the Insidious and Saw fanbases provided and complimented on Bell's work on the film. "What a beautiful man [Tobin] is," Shaye said. "He's really elegant, smart, and kind. We were very quiet. There wasn't a lot of chit-chatting—we kind of bonded over the material and the relationship. The comfort I found in him as my character and his desire to protect me. It was a very positive relationship that I think had a lot of charisma to it. We really connected to each other." Much of what drives the film, the actress says, is the status quo of toxicity and goes into detail how such a kind and compassionate person like Edith can be broken down and be made a monster. "Timothy was very supportive of me and my ideas as well," Shaye said. "Based on what we discussed, he added the whole storyline that I ran a daycare center, and I'm a very nice woman. I'm a very nice person who loves kids. She had a lovely life with the man she loves. She was a good wife and how that deteriorates through anger. These kids are mean. It's a very important theme right now. People are very mean right now. There's something that's happened, not to get into politics. It's hard to separate it, however."
The actress complimented how Woodward sets the film's themes, perfectly turning Edith into such a sympathetic victim from all the vitriol. "We been given permission to hate," Shaye continued. "It's really upsetting. I think that aspect of bringing that to the life of the character. Even though it's an entertainment and horror film, there's an element that Timothy encouraged in Edith. He gave me permission for me to tell my personal truth about that theme, and I love him for that. Yet, he's still steering the car. The look of the movie is atmosphere and scary in the right way. You don't know how much color and composition have to do with the way you feel. [Cinematographer] Pablo Diez and Timothy are a phenomenal team in creating the atmosphere the actors get to live in. I really had a wonderful time. Timothy is really smart. There was one scene in the film when I come back as the "upset" person; he's like 'it's all rage.' When you see that character in relation to when you first see me, there's more vulnerability to who she is. You see how she begins, then you see the rage, which is the byproduct of these kids." Shaye had a busy 2020 as she's also in Penny Dreadful: City of Angels for Showtime, Max Reload and the Nether Blasters, Jackson's Hole, Dreamkatcher, Darkness Falls, The Voices, and The Grudge remake. The Call, which also stars Chester Rushing, Erin Sanders, Judd Lormand, Sloane Morgan Siegel, and Mike C. Manning, is currently in theatres.