When it comes to being haunted by otherworldly spirits onscreen, American actress Lili Taylor is getting to be quite a pro.
The actress was in Jan de Bont’s 1999 remake of ‘The Haunting’, where she played a young woman besieged by spirits during a haunting investigation.
In latest horror-thriller ‘The Conjuring’ by ‘Saw’ director James Wan, the 46-year-old actress plays a mother who is besieged by haunting spirits of her own. And that’s where the similarities end.
While de Bont’s ‘The Haunting’ in 1999 was poorly received due to the overuse of CGI and the inevitable comparisons with the 1963 Robert Wise original that inspired it, ‘The Conjuring’ employs very little special effects and is already gathering favourable reviews as a well-made spine-chiller.
Read also: 'The Conjuring' movie review
“It was a different experience working in this film,” Taylor told inSing.
“The main difference is the way the scares are done – ‘The Haunting’ was all CGI and effects whereas ‘The Conjuring’ is stripped down. The thing with horrors is that anything you can’t see is definitely scarier.”
What's so fantastic about ‘The Conjuring’ is that it harks back to an older, classier, more contained horror movie.
An innocent game of hide-and-clap turns into one of the most scariest scenes in 'The Conjuring'
“I think all of us want to go back to the simple way of doing films as these are more authentic. In ‘The Haunting’, you saw everything, so your imagination was not working, unlike ‘The Conjuring’ – and James knows that. He knows how to get us all worked up, imagining all sorts of scary stuff in our heads and then knocks us down exactly when we need to be knocked flat.
He has a great sense of timing and that is very interesting to observe as an actor,” Taylor explained.
Opening in Singapore on 8 August, ‘The Conjuring’ is James Wan’s freshest cinema haunting.
The film chronicles the details of a previously untold case by famous real-life “ghosthunters” Ed and Lorraine Warren from the US – the same couple who also explored the paranormal happenings in the house made famous by the 1979 horror film, ‘The Amityville Horror’.
Set in 1971, ‘The Conjuring’ tells how the Warrens (played by Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson) helped the Perron family – Carolyn (Taylor), Roger (Ron Livingston) and their five daughters – who encountered dark forces after they moved into an old farmhouse on Rhode Island.
Read also: Interview with Vera Farmiga
Taylor admitted that she knew when Wan approached her about the movie that ‘The Conjuring’ is unlike other movies of the genre.
FINDING OUT MORE ABOUT EXORCISMS
“I knew that it’s going to be like the horror movies that I love, like ‘The Exorcist’ and ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ when James first described it to me… I knew from ‘Insidious’ that he (Wan) really cared about the relationships the characters had,” Taylor said.
To prepare for her role and also because her character is possessed by a demon, Taylor trawled through YouTube to find out more about exorcisms and possessions.
“I needed to understand what possessed people went through. What happens to them, before, during and after the possession,” she said.
Anyone watching the movie would admit in a heartbeat that Taylor’s take on possession looks shockingly real and it’s almost exhausting to watch.
She said she and director Wan decided to take things to another level, so that horror fans know that the movie is no mere imitator of past films.
“In ‘The Exorcist’, Regan (Linda Blair’s character) was totally gone. There wasn’t a hint of Regan, the person, during the possession, whereas you can see glimmers of Carolyn in this movie, little bits of consciousness, which made a big difference. You can see how my character is fighting inside during the possession. I was literally playing two persons at once,” she recalled.
PERFECTING THE SCREAM
Lili Taylor with Joey King
“Screaming also plays a big part here, as I know I cannot make this movie if I don’t know how to scream. The one that I needed to do was a deep and dark scream, not those high-pitched ones. After researching Youtube videos of exorcisms and screaming, I did one that’s out of this world,” Taylor said.
Director James Wan has nothing but praise for her performance: “She is fantastic, especially in what her character has to go through in the movie. I think Lili did such an amazing job taking her character from one place to another and then back to the same place again.”
Taylor perfected her scream through YouTube videos
Even her co-star and onscreen husband Ron Livingston agrees: “Lili can really run the gamut. In the parts where you need to see her come apart and get scary, she goes beyond the pale with that. She really can do it all.”
Read also: inSing visits The Warren Occult Museum
Despite her involvement in horror films, Taylor admits she is still quite indifferent when it comes to believing in the supernatural.
“I believe and I don’t believe it at the same time. I am very comfortable living at that paradox, and I’m not pressuring myself to answer. I have had a weird experience years ago. I don’t know how to describe it, but it felt very real. I believe it when people say that it had happened to them.”
And what of movies about demonic possession that terrifies people so much?
“Possession comes from another realm. It comes from a world that all of us have either seen it or experienced the possibility of it happening. I don’t think that there is one human being who can understand this kind of madness, and that is very frightening. I’ll take gory movies any day over exorcism or possession films. There is nothing scarier than that.”