And for their next trick…

The Con­jur­ing’s para­nor­mal in­ves­ti­ga­tors are com­ing to Bri­tain for the se­quel

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Contents - Words: ian Ber­ri­man, rosie Fletcher, sarah Dobbs

The power of box of­fice com­pels you! The power of box of­fice com­pels you! Back in 2013, James Wan’s ’70s-throw­back hor­ror The

Con­jur­ing did phe­nom­e­nal busi­ness, even­tu­ally rack­ing up a $318 mil­lion world­wide. So it’s not ex­actly a shock that it’s spawned de­monic off­spring. What might sur­prise you is that The

Con­jur­ing 2 sees para­nor­mal in­ves­ti­ga­tors Ed and Lor­raine War­ren (Pa­trick Wil­son and Vera Fer­miga) cross­ing the pond to Bri­tain, to in­ves­ti­gate an­other in­ci­dent from the real-life cou­ple’s case­book: the Enfield pol­ter­geist case, re­cently drama­tised as Sky Liv­ing minis­eries

The Enfield Haunt­ing.

For pro­ducer Peter Safran, fol­low­ing up the first film’s New Hamp­shire haunt­ings (based on the 1971 case of the Per­ron fam­ily) with one of the UK’s most well-pub­li­cised para­nor­mal in­ci­dents was a no-brainer.

“It was an easy one,” Safran says. “We wanted some­thing that was very dif­fer­ent from the Per­ron fam­ily case, which was quintessen­tially Amer­i­can. The fact it was set in Lon­don gave us a dif­fer­ent en­vi­ron­ment to play with, a dif­fer­ent time pe­riod and a dif­fer­ent po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion. Plus, it was such a well-known story, we thought it was a wor­thy suc­ces­sor.”

Not fa­mil­iar with the story of sin­gle mother Peggy Hodg­son and her four chil­dren? Then al­low Peter Safran to set the scene for the se­quel, which takes place six years af­ter the events of the first film:

“It’s 1977, Eng­land. They live in Enfield – coun­cil hous­ing. Strange go­ings-on start. Ed and Lor­raine are called in by Fa­ther Gor­don [the priest from the first film], and he plays them a tape…”

Said tape fea­tures the rant­ing of a foul­mouthed old man.

“Ed says, ‘It cer­tainly sounds very dis­turb­ing.

I think he’s prob­a­bly se­nile.’ And Fa­ther Gor­don says, ‘That’s a 12-year-old girl.’ So that’s the set-up. They say, ‘We want you to go to Eng­land to ob­serve this case as in­stru­ments of the Church… go and see what’s re­ally go­ing on down there.’”

TO THE STUDIO

And go the War­rens do – although for the most part, the pro­duc­tion didn’t. While prin­ci­pal photography did con­clude with three days of ex­te­ri­ors shot a cou­ple of streets from where the Hodg­sons lived, the in­te­rior of their Enfield coun­cil house was recre­ated on the Warner lot in Cal­i­for­nia – largely for prac­ti­cal rea­sons, as di­rec­tor James Wan ex­plains.

“I don’t think I could shoot in a lo­ca­tion that’s the right size as the real lo­ca­tion! My film crew alone would take up the whole liv­ing room – I would have nowhere to put the ac­tors! So just from a cinematic stand­point you have to cheat a bit.”

That set re­ceived per­haps the ul­ti­mate test of its au­then­tic­ity when the sis­ters at the cen­tre of events, Mar­garet and Janet Hodg­son, were in­vited over to pay a visit.

“It re­ally was an ex­tra­or­di­nary ex­pe­ri­ence,” Safran re­calls. “We ob­vi­ously de­signed it around the pic­tures they had and the sto­ries they told us. To see it 38 years later was a won­der­ful thing for them.”

The sis­ters’ trip to LA also in­volved a very spe­cial re­union – with the real-life Lor­raine War­ren. Peter Safran’s fel­low pro­ducer Rob Cowan was present.

“When they met Lor­raine, they got re­ally emo­tional,” Cowan re­mem­bers. “They all gave big hugs. They hadn’t seen each other for al­most 40 years. They were chat­ting away for hours on end to­gether. And the sis­ters told us how much Lor­raine had helped them through­out that time pe­riod. Mar­garet in par­tic­u­lar got very teary-eyed. Janet sent us a note af­ter­wards say­ing it had brought back a lot of the mem­o­ries of what had hap­pened to her. I think she found it very cathar­tic.”

Ac­cord­ing to Peter Safran, hav­ing Lor­raine War­ren her­self – now 90 years old – avail­able to con­sult with has been a big help to the film­mak­ers too, in terms of giv­ing this fran­chise a sense of verisimil­i­tude.

“When you talk to her,” he says, “Whether it’s about a spe­cific case or just in general, it gives you that au­then­tic­ity that other films don’t have. She gives you the lit­tle de­tails about what she and Ed would do, how they would think about things, how they would talk to­gether and dis­cuss op­tions.”

In general, the ap­proach on this film has been to stay true to the, ahem, spirit of the story while (of ne­ces­sity) com­press­ing the time­line, and also in­vent­ing cer­tain de­tails to sur­prise.

“Be­cause peo­ple know cer­tain events, you feel be­holden to show them,” Cowan says. “There’s a fa­mous doc­u­men­tary that shows the po­lice talk about see­ing a chair move in the house, so you feel you have to show those things to re­ward peo­ple that know the real story. But there’s other sto­ries that have been told to us that aren’t out in pub­lic.”

“Also, what we’re re­ally try­ing to do is cap­ture how the kids felt. So we’ve come up with things to show that. We take their sto­ries, amal­ga­mate them, and come up with fresh new things that tell their story with­out telling things that ev­ery­body al­ready knows about.” It sounds like the ap­proach has paid off. “When she saw the movie, Mar­garet came to me and said, ‘This is ex­actly how we felt when it was go­ing on.’”

Although the Bri­tish set­ting is one sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence be­tween The Con­jur­ing 2 and its fore­bear, a se­quel needs more than a

It’s un­like any hor­ror film you will ever see. It’s out­ra­geously eclec­tic!

change of lo­ca­tion to avoid it feel­ing like a mere re­tread. Thank­fully there are fur­ther points of con­trast – start­ing with the char­ac­ter­i­sa­tion of the he­roes.

“Ed and Lor­raine War­ren are such fas­ci­nat­ing char­ac­ters,” Peter Safran says. “I think we all hoped while mak­ing the first one that we’d have the op­por­tu­nity to build on that. And you’ll see in this movie we give them a lot more depth than they had even in the first one.”

Star Pa­trick Wil­son (Ed War­ren) tells us that the new film de­picts a deep­en­ing love be­tween the cou­ple, and also ad­dresses the fact that in the six years since the events of the first film, the War­rens (like their real-life coun­ter­parts) have at­tracted scep­ti­cal me­dia at­ten­tion – some­thing James Wan was keen to ad­dress.

FUR­THER THAN BE­FORE

“I con­front a guy who’s a non-be­liever and thinks I’m ly­ing,” Wil­son ex­plains. “A lot of as­pects of Ed are pushed to the limit. There are mo­ments of lev­ity that you saw in the first one that we’ve pushed a lit­tle fur­ther. James very much wants to push the en­ve­lope, so that’s what you see with Ed – those things that you glimpsed in the first one, we cranked all those things up. And I think you see an even stronger bond be­tween Ed and Lor­raine, and a stronger fric­tion in terms of what’s right for the cause and for them as peo­ple. ” There’s also some­thing of a switch from The

Con­jur­ing’s firmly fe­male-cen­tric fo­cus.

“With the first film it was five girls in the fam­ily, the mother was the core cen­tre, and the story on our hero’s side was much more about Lor­raine,” Cowan says. “And it was about a witch, Bathsheba, and this old woman down­stairs and a girl who slit her wrists. This one is tak­ing more of a shift to­wards a male point of view and male re­la­tion­ships. Pa­trick is do­ing much more of the hero­ics. There’s a lit­tle story in the movie about Ed War­ren and the re­la­tion­ship with his fa­ther. And the de­mon that you’ll see is male-ori­en­tated. So there’s a much more male theme to this movie.”

Well, that makes a re­fresh­ing change, eh ladies…? But don’t worry, Vera Fer­miga (Lor­raine War­ren) hasn’t been ren­dered com­pletely re­dun­dant. And she’s bang­ing the drum for this movie so hard she’s in dan­ger of wear­ing out the skin…

“Hon­estly, what’s the point of a se­quel un­less you can out-gross, out-story, out-heart the orig­i­nal?” Fer­miga says. “We were so ea­ger to bring our A+ games and strive for more, push bound­aries and reach fur­ther and go deeper. We re­ally go for it this time around, and I’m very proud of it. I think it’s un­like any hor­ror film you will ever see. It has those el­e­ments from the first one but it’s so much more cap­ti­vat­ing – we push it into a dif­fer­ent arena. There’s a lot of hu­mour, there’s ro­mance… there’s even a mu­si­cal part. It’s out­ra­geously eclec­tic, and hor­ri­fy­ing! I just saw it yes­ter­day for the first time and boy… I had the worst night’s sleep of my life!”

Will the even­tual box of­fice re­ceipts give the pro­duc­ers sleep­less nights? Un­likely. Pos­sessed-doll Con­jur­ing spin-off Annabelle raked in over $250 mil­lion in 2014; a fol­low-up may be lens­ing by the time you read this. So can we ex­pect more movies set in the War­ren­verse? Highly likely. And the next one might not even have any­thing to do with pos­ses­sion or rest­less spir­its…

“I think the no­tion would be to take it off in a dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion again,” says Cowan. “Still the same idea with the War­rens, but find some­thing fresh. There’s a ton of in­for­ma­tion – they’ve got were­wolf sto­ries! There’s lots of dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions to go with them…”

The Con­jur­ing 2 opens on 17 June.

Not sit­ting down for a jolly din­ner party.

Ed War­ren (Pa­trick Wil­son) gets cross. “So tell us more about your fur­ni­ture…” Some kids have such messy bed­rooms…

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