To celebrate Women in Horror Month, I will be highlighting some of my favorite undersung female characters in horror films each day this month. These posts will contain some spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the movies mentioned, do yourself a solid and check them out before reading all the way through.
Today I’m celebrating Elise Rainier from the Insidious franchise.
Elise is not only a rare example of a heroine who appears in every film in a horror franchise, she is a franchise heroine who was already over 65 years old in the first film. It is pretty cool to see a senior citizen portrayed as a demon-fighting badass (psychological badass in this case – although I would pay to see Lin Shaye dropkick the Darth Maul demon from Insidious: Chapter 1). These movies are like if someone thought “what if the Poltergeist franchise eventually became about Tangina instead of the family?”
The first film largely revolves around the Lambert family whose son Dalton is inexplicably stuck in a coma. Dalton’s family begins seeing frightening apparitions around the house shortly afterward. Dalton’s paternal grandmother Lorraine calls her old friend and psychic Elise to help. Elise brings her man-servants Tucker and Specs (the later played by Insidious writer and fellow horror director Leigh Whannell), and she quickly determines that Dalton’s inexplicable coma and the apparitions are in fact connected.
Admittedly, I have not seen all the Insidious movies, but I would include Elise on the list for this scene alone:
Elise is smart, decisive, and strong in the face of evil. You can tell she is earnest despite knowing how outlandish her reading sounds. Even she knows how silly things like astral projection and demons sound like to the average person, but Elise continues to try and fight for the humans who get caught up in the Further and the demon realm. In the first two films she serves as sort of a supporting character who helps the main characters fight evil ala Dr. Loomis in Halloween. But in the later two franchise entries, Elise is promoted to clear protagonist of the films. We also get more insight into her backstory specifically.
Hats off to Elise for being a rare example of a senior playing the heroine. May we all be as courageous as Elise throughout our lives.