Earlier this week, we brought you a behind the scenes look at our time on the set of James Wan‘s much anticipated horror sequel The Conjuring 2. Replicating the success of one of the biggest and best reviewed genre movies of the last five years could be quite a challenge, fortunately not only are the directors and stars–Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson–back but so are the producers Peter Safran and Rob Cowan. While on set, they filled us in on the process of making the first and the second films, the challenges of bringing a “Googleable” haunting to the big screen, and if we can look forward to a new spinoff from the second movie.
When horror movies are a dime a dozen and most rely on loud jump scares and little substance to put audiences on edge once they’ve claimed their seats, it’s easy to understand why movies like 2013’s The Conjuring have made such an impression on Hollywood. A hit with fans and critics, the movie scared up big money at the worldwide box office and yet the studio took their time in producing a sequel. And, while speaking with producer Peter Safran, it was clear to see that the folks behind the scenes were being as careful as they could be with the brand name. “I think it was really important to James [Wan] if he were to come back and direct it that this would be a worthy successor to the first one,” said Safran of the much in-demand director James Wan. “The first one was so well received by both fans and critics, I think what worked in it was really character development and really spending the time to get to know the Warrens and their subjects and when they come together it creates something real. We actually cared about them. So in this one, in the development of the script, it was incredibly important to all of us that we build the true family relationships that existed. We spent a lot of time talking to the family and understanding what they went through in 1977 and that brings a lot of authenticity to it, which is what we did in the first film. We also spend a lot of time talking to Lorraine Warren, who tells us all these stories of how it was working with Ed on these cases and the writers can weave into.”
One question that was on the minds of the press in attendance that day was the notoriety of the Enfield case, the subject of The Conjuring 2. When so much of scaring an audience revolves around the element of surprise, did the public awareness and the abundance of information provided by the internet give pause to anyone behind the scenes when it came to choosing this haunting from the Warren case files? “Sure, it’s a very Googleable case,” said Safran, “so in the screenplay we wanted to address a lot of the things that came up in a search, just like the first movie. Having the right number of family members, for example. In this case, whether it was a hoax was very prevalent at the time so you can’t hide from that. So we definitely address that.”
Safran went on, explaining that whether or not you believe these hauntings happened, there are two people who have no question that they did. “There’s no doubt at all in Janet’s or Margaret’s mind [the children in the Enfield case] that this took place. And Lorraine [Warren] never tries to persuade you over to her point of view. It’s as simple as (knocks on table), this is a table, that’s just what it is. We just address it from that perspective. For those involved, it was very real.”
One of the things that struck so many audience members about the first film is that it was a fairly intense drama that just so happened to involve a horrifying witch and some terrifying possession. So how would Safran explain the tone of the second movie? Can audiences expect a similar feeling of dread and classic filmmaking? “It is comparable,” Safran assures. “That was one of the things that we all set out to make back then as well, which was a character driven super scary movie, without relying on a lot of jump scares, stinging, quick cuts, trying to do as much in camera as possible, real character development. And I think that has blend through to this one as well. It’s not violent, bloody, gory, stabby, whatever. It’s none of that. And I really think the tone of first one has influenced the second one. ”
One of the most memorable scenes from the first film was a seemingly innocent clap game. It was like no game I remembered from my childhood so I asked Safran about a little behind-the-scenes insight; where did that come from? “It came from James,” he revealed, still clearly impressed by Wan’s creativity. “That was not in our original script. He just thought it was super creepy.” Safran continued, “We’re like, ‘Where did you come up with that?’ It’s stuff like, ‘Oh, here’s something that I thought of when I was sitting at my home.’ And he’d put it in the script and it’s just a great, great scare beat. So that’s where it comes from. We actually have similar stuff to that, obviously not the clap game, but kids stuff they will certainly remember from their childhood and others will think, that’s just a great game, but I didn’t play it myself.”
Finally, when it comes to the first, we’ve covered the energy and we’ve covered “the clap,” but one thing we haven’t discussed is Annabelle. In the first movie the scary artifact was obviously a breakout star. Can we look forward to a new character from The Conjuring universe starring in their own movie? According to producer Rob Cowan, they have their eye on one in particular. “There’s a character that we just had finished shooting some of, and I can’t say much about him, and again, the movie’s got to come out, we’ve got to see how the response is, but it’s a character that we love and we hope eventually, like Annabelle, that it could spin off into its own story.”
The Conjuring 2 hits theaters on June 3, 2016.
Image Credits: Warner Bros. Pictures