Movie Feature

Interview: James Wan is back to haunt us with 'Conjuring 2'

By Zaki JufriMovies - 01 June 2016 12:00 AM

Interview: James Wan is back to haunt us with 'Conjuring 2'

There are horror movies, and then there are horror movies made by James Wan.

As the co-creator of cult torture-porn franchise ‘Saw’, and with six horror movies under his belt, Wan is somewhat of an expert in engineering terror.

2013’s ‘The Conjuring’ saw the 39-year-old filmmaker top all of his other achievements to produce one of the scariest films of that year, and possibly of modern cinema.

‘The Conjuring’ certainly lives up to its name; conjuring chills, scares, screams, carefully sustaining it throughout with a sense of terror. It also raked in US$318 (S$438) million worldwide.

MORE: ‘The Conjuring’ movie review

The record-breaking box-office success of the first movie meant a follow-up was all but inevitable.

So what’s his secret? How does one go from Kuching, Sarawak, then to film school in Melbourne, and then to directing some of the scariest horror movies of all time?

Just hard graft and passion, Wan tells us.

Simon McBurney, Patrick Wilson, James Wan and Vera Farmiga | Photo: Warner Bros

“My passion for filmmaking is what drives me. Not to mention, my belief in hard work that I will eventually achieve my filmmaking goals,” he said over the phone from Seoul.

‘The Conjuring 2’ picks up a long six years after the first one left off. Here, the Warrens (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) travel to London to investigate the Endfield poltergeist.

Like the first movie, ‘The Conjuring 2’ is a story about a struggling family in a haunted house. Here, it’s single mother Peggy Hodgson (Frances O’Connor) who’s being plagued by evil forces, as she and her four kids watch furniture zoom around the room, speak in unearthly voices or get tossed into the air by unseen forces in the night.

We spoke with Wan about the Enfield case, working in a larger sandbox and reuniting with his lead stars.

Was a sequel ever in the works when you did the first one?

No, it wasn’t. I never liked to think about sequels even before the first film came out. But since the Warrens have investigated so many cases in their lifetime, a sequel would have to be very organic instead of us having to make things up out of nothing.

And why this Enfield story in particular?

The Warrens have investigated over 8,000 incidents in their lifetime but the one case that put them on the map is the Amityville Horror, so we had to address that in this movie. Another infamous haunting that they've investigated is the Enfield poltergeist and I felt it mirrors the Amityville story. This particular story also gave me a good backdrop of expanding the relationship of Ed and Lorraine. 

Was there any pressure to top the first one? This movie feels a lot bigger and it looks like you have a bigger sandbox to play in.

There was definitely a lot of pressure, particularly from me wanting to do better than the first one. I know that people love the first film so much – the story and its characters.

I just want to live up to that expectation. I knew that I had to make a sequel that at the very least, not embarrass the first movie.

MORE: Interview with Vera Farmiga

I thought that it was going to be an easy shoot, but it wasn’t. However, I am glad that I pushed myself to do better.

I feel that ‘Conjuring 2’ is a better movie as it works both as a horror film as well as a family drama.

James Wan with Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson | Photo: Warner Bros

What first drew you to the Warrens?

If you’re a fan of the paranormal world, it’s hard not to come across the cases of Ed and Lorraine. I’ve known about them since I was a teenager growing up. When I came to Hollywood to make movies, it felt like a natural progression that I look into the life rights of the Warrens and see who has it.

MORE: inSing visits The Warren Occult Museum

It was a challenge running around Hollywood to find out whom exactly own their rights. In fact, a lot of people were fighting for them but it eventually landed with New Line Cinema.

How was it like reuniting with Patrick and Vera again?

They’re one of the reasons why I want to come back for a sequel. 

This is your fourth movie together with Patrick. What do you see in him?

A lot of directors that I admire have great working relationships with their actors, and I feel that Patrick is a great embodiment of a leading man. He’s a good-looking man yet he also has that guy-next-door quality about him, and women love him. 

He’s also very dedicated actor, always very willing to step up to any challenge I throw at him. What else can a director ask for in his leading actor?

Having met and spoken with the real Lorraine, I felt that Vera really embodies her realistically – from her mannerisms, fashion choices and the way she speaks. 

Vera loves the idea of channelling the real Lorraine Warren in her performance. This is one of her favourite characters to portray because it is based on a real person. So it is easy to do research – all she had to do was make a phone call, or drive up to Lorraine’s house to pick her brain to get her insights.

‘The Conjuring 2’ opens in Singapore 9 June 2016 

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  • The Conjuring 2

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