James Wan, who wowed audiences last year with Insidious, is finishing a new nightmare to deliver unto us titled The Conjuring. During last month’s New York Comic Con, Wan and a few of the film’s stars chatted with our man Nomad about what we can expect.
The Conjuring is a story from the illustrious career of legendary ghost hunters Ed and Lorraine Warren. The Warrens were called upon to help the Perrons, a family terrorized by a dark presence in a secluded farmhouse. Forced to confront a powerful demonic entity, the Warrens find themselves caught in the most terrifying case of their lives. The Conjuring is brought to us by the Insidious creative team with music by Joe Bishara.
Director Wan spoke about some of the vision and feel of The Conjuring. “So much of the look of the antagonist you don’t see, really,” Wan said. “I wanted to stay true to the reason why I made this movie, which was classic horror filmmaking. The more you hold back, the more effective it is. So you see shots of her hand or pieces of her feet, and of course, it leads into when you finally reveal what this thing is. It’s pretty frightening.”
Wan described the tension he tried to build into the film. “It’s a creeper,” Wan said. “It’s a slow burn [that] starts off slow and sucks you into the family situation, and then things start to happen. It’s a style of filmmaking that I love where nothing really happens at first, but then the tiniest little thing starts to suck you in… and it sucks you in and it builds to something that is out of control. That’s the style of film I like to make.”
The Conjuring is set in the 1970’s, a detail that Wan loved playing with. “I really wanted to make a movie that was a tribute to the 70’s style of filmmaking. People who have seen it have compared it to The Amityville Horror, and to me that’s a great thing because that’s what I was going for. Ed and Lorraine Warren did investigate the story that went on to become The Amityville Horror, so I wanted to capture the smell of that era.”
Patrick Wilson plays one half of the ghost hunting couple, Ed Warren, and he discussed the film being set on the 70’s and what he felt made the decade a great setting for horror. “I don’t know if it was a social thing coming out of the 60’s,” Wilson said, “but there’s this rise of a lot of these haunting stories. Ed and Lorraine Warren, that’s where they hit their stride with the latter part being Amityville, but even up until then they had done hundreds of cases. But it’s a much broader issue, not just horror movies but paranormal situations. I’m sure it’s got to be some kind of social issue, post-Vietnam, people not knowing what to do.”
And Wilson spoke on playing the role of Ed Warren. “Ed was a bear of a guy,” Wilson said. “He was a strong man. He had a funny side, too, but when he meant business, he was not messing around. So I did what I could do. Even when he spoke. I want to say it was a dialect, but it’s just like… 50’s speak. It’s old school. He’s a working man. That sort of directness really contrasts with Lorraine. I think that’s why they were such an interesting couple back in the day, dressing alike and liking a certain style. We tried to put in as much of that as we could.”
Lily Taylor plays the mother of the Perron family, terrorized by a malevolent supernatural force. As the movie rolls on, Taylor is required to don make-up and do some high-intensity physical acting. “It was very physical,” Taylor said. “I definitely had to make sure I was in shape because when she gets possessed, she’s otherworldly. She can do physical things most people can’t. There was weird body movement involved, quick movements, there was spazzing out. There was a lot of stuff… tackling people, running.”
Asked how she prepared for the possession scenes, Taylor mentioned watching some exorcism videos. “Unfortunately, I saw a couple of possession videos. It’s not fun footage to watch,” Taylor said. “Good ol’ YouTube, you can find everything on there. I saw some possessions, and they actually helped a lot.”
Taylor also had to go through some intense make-up applications for her role. “Three hours of make-up,” Taylor said. “It was a fantastic progression. Great make-up. We had these brown contacts that were just enough to deaden my eyes so it just looked like I had the flu… like something was just a little wrong. Then they just made me look like I was sicker and sicker.”
Playing the other half of the Perron couple is Ron Livingston. Livingston understands that the connectivity we have today makes creating horror more difficult. In the 70’s, isolation was the fearmonger’s ally. “It’s great, grainy… there’s something about those 70’s colors, the rust browns,” Livingston said. “I was trying to figure that out, what makes it more effective having it that far in the past. But setting the film 30, 40 years in the past really added to it. However, it’s not the Almost Famous 70’s. It’s more like what my dad looked like in the 70’s. It wasn’t pretty. Flannels and bad hair.”
Livingston also feels the realism of the story adds to the fear factor of the film. “I think it accentuates the fact that it’s a real life story,” Livingston said. “It makes it feel a little bit like it’s historical. You watch these murder shows on TV where they go back to some serial killer case, and it’s always 20 or 30 years ago.”
And what about setting the film in the past made it eerier? “We’re so connected now,” Livingston said. “Everyone has a cell phone now that they can just whip out and dial 911. There’s something about being in the day of when you’re out in the county and there’s that one phone in the house. It’s before answering machines. You’re a little more cut off. You’re not really sure if the car’s going to start.”
Livingston feels Wan handled the pace of the film brilliantly, creating an environment of tension and fright that will thrill audiences. “I think he really paced it masterfully,” Livingston said. “He does a great device where you’ve got the family at the house, and that part is really, really creepy and it develops in that old Hitchcock build style. But he cross-cuts it with Ed and Lorraine Warren. It’s two different paces, and it does two great things… they’re doing lecture stuff to students and showing films of some of their other cases and you’re getting scares there and you’re seeing how some of the past cases went. So they bring you up-to-speed on who they are and what they do, and it takes all the onus off the family to be explaining things as they go. We can literally not know what the hell is going on for the first act of the movie. And the audience knows actually more than we do, which makes for a really great, really suspenseful experience. You sweat it. There are these seven hapless people in the house who have no idea what’s going on, and the audience is like, ‘No… Don’t go down there!'”
Look for the film, based upon events described in the book House of Darkness, House of Light: The True Story by Andrea Perron, to open in theatres on July 19, 2013. The Conjuring, written by Chad and Carey Hayes, stars Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Ron Livingston, Lili Taylor, Mackenzie Foy, Joey King, Hayley McFarland, Joe Bishara, and Shanley Caswell.
Before there was Amityville, there was Harrisville. Based on a true story, The Conjuring tells the horrifying tale of how world renowned paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren were called upon to help a family terrorized by a dark presence in a secluded farmhouse. Forced to confront a powerful demonic entity, the Warrens find themselves caught in the most terrifying case of their lives.
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