James Wan is a master of paranoia, of playing on such universal fears as being in the dark, being alone and, in the case of The Conjuring 2, being overtaken by the unknown.
The supernatural thriller The Conjuring 2, with James Wan once again at the helm following the record-breaking success of The Conjuring, seeking to terrify moviegoers once again with his depiction of another highly publicized case involving the real-life horrors experienced by paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren with The Conjuring 2, from a screenplay by Chad Hayes & Carey W. Hayes (The Conjuring) & James Wan and David Leslie Johnson (Wrath of the Titans) , story by Chad Hayes & Carey W. Hayes & James Wan. Read review.
Reprising their roles, Oscar nominee Vera Farmiga (Up In the Air) and Patrick Wilson (Hard Candy) , star as Lorraine and Ed Warren, who, in one of their most terrifying paranormal investigations, travel to north London to help a single mother raising four children alone in a house plagued by malicious spirits.
In 1970, the Warrens battled a malevolent presence that permeated a remote farmhouse in Harrisville, Rhode Island—a case brought to the screen in 2013 in Wan’s hugely successful “The Conjuring.” Then came the most highly publicized case of their careers, Amityville, which would nearly destroy them.
It’s late 1977 when, with the effects of Long Island still haunting them, the Warrens come out of a self-imposed sabbatical and travel to northern London to take on a vile demonic entity that has taken root in the home of the Hodgson family, in the populous borough of Enfield. What is thought by many to be a hoax will become the most documented case in paranormal history.
“Everything Ed and Lorraine have been through since we met them in the first film has been leading up to Enfield,” Wan states. “Out of the repertoire of cases they investigated over their lifetime, Enfield is one of the most compelling…and frightening. It’s also one of the most interesting in that in many ways it is a reflection of the Amityville haunting, so in the film we touch on that as well.”
“I believe in the story and the world of the Warrens,” Wan says, “and the opportunity to expand on their world with Vera and Patrick and bring this particular story to audiences was super exciting for me.”
The film follows the phenomenal worldwide reception of Wan’s The Conjuring, which marked the largest opening ever for an original horror movie. It went on to make more than $319 million worldwide and still remains the second highest grossing original horror movie of all time, second only to The Exorcist.
Further outlining the contrast from the first film, Wan says, “‘The Conjuring’ geography was intimate, a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere, and this one takes place in council housing in a big city, so the neighbors are close by, there’s traffic. Just by the nature of the setting the people around it are more exposed to what’s happening in this house.”
But perhaps the most frightening peculiarity seen in “The Conjuring 2” is that this time, the family aren’t the only ones the possessing entity focuses on…whatever it is, it attacks the Warrens directly, too, causing both Ed and Lorraine to fear for each other as well as for the Hodgsons.
Prior to the arrival of the Warrens, the Hodgson home had also been frequented by German parapsychologist Anita Gregory, played in the film by Franka Potente, and British paranormal investigator Maurice Grosse, portrayed by Simon McBurney. But it was the Warrens that would make the greatest impression on, and the biggest difference to, the family.
“When Ed and Lorraine came to the house, to me it felt like some sort of comfort had arrived for the first time, in that they’d come to try and help us,” says Janet Hodgson Winter, the real-life woman who suffered the most in the Hodgson family as a young girl of just 11 or so. The primary target of the possession, she served as a consultant on the film.
“‘There’s definitely something in this house, Lorraine said,’” recalls Margaret Hodgson Nadeem, Janet’s older sister and also a consultant, of Lorraine and Ed’s initial visit. “We told her everything that had happened and how it started and that it was still going on, we couldn’t get rid of it, and she said, ‘I’ve seen these things before, I’ll do my best to try and help you.’”
To adapt the numerous real-life events for the big screen, Wan worked alongside writers Chad and Carey Hayes, who wrote “The Conjuring” and were keen to revisit the Warrens’ world once again, and screenwriter David Leslie Johnson.
“This was the first time I’ve ever worked on a script that was based on a true story,” offers Johnson, who had been eager to work with Wan for some time. “I’ve always been a horror fan, but what was really interesting to me was that this was not only true, but there was so much publicity surrounding this case at the time, and so many witnesses. Even the police had filed reports; this wasn’t just one or two people or an isolated family saying what had happened.”
Chad Hayes states, “This was such a powerful story about a real family falling apart. The father’s gone, the mother’s doing everything to make ends meet, and then this happens. Even after all of our research, it’s just…unimaginable…but it’s true.”
“We could see that even with all that Ed and Lorraine went through after Amityville, like being accused of being charlatans,” Carey Hayes observes, “seeing young Janet accused of that as well gave Lorraine something to identify with and Ed something to defend, beyond their usual compassion for families having these kinds of troubles.”
All these years later, Lorraine Warren still vividly recalls the fear she felt immediately upon arrival at the Hodgsons’ home and on first glimpsing the peril the family was experiencing. “I could see the girls were in two beds. Then they levitated, they crisscrossed in the air, and the girls screamed. I knew I needed to help them.”
“The Conjuring 2” is the sixth film collaboration between composer Joseph Bishara and James Wan (as either director or producer); Bishara also coached Patrick Wilson on the guitar for the scene in which he plays an Elvis song to the Hodgson family.
James Wan is a master of paranoia, of playing on such universal fears as being in the dark, being alone and, in the case of “The Conjuring 2,” being overtaken by the unknown. “Everybody has fears,” he says. “My job is to tie into the collective subconscious and into our greatest fears, in this case it’s the unexplainable—demons, possession, haunting. These are things that really happened, that really happen, and that makes them that much more terrifying. For me, as a filmmaker, it’s a really creative genre. You can kind of do anything…so long as it scares the hell out of the audience!”
At 6:45 a.m. on September 21, 2015, fifteen minutes prior to the official start of principal photography on “The Conjuring 2,” Father Steven Sanchez of Albuquerque, New Mexico—a Roman Catholic Church-sanctioned exorcist and personal friend of demonologist Lorraine Warren—began a blessing of the production before cast and crew on Stage 4 of the Warner Bros. Studios lot in Burbank, California. Father Steve then extended an invitation for a personal blessing to anyone in attendance. Afterward, he moved through the stage using holy water and anointing oil to bless each room that comprised the main set; making a movie about a documented possession, the filmmakers took no chances. Then, and only then, did filming begin.
Thanks (most likely) to Father Steven’s blessing of the soundstage prior to the cameras rolling, the cast and crew experienced far fewer “unusual” occurrences than on the first film, though there were a few odd happenings before and during production: doors opening on their own, items going missing, shadowy figures seen or felt when no one was actually there, and lights going out unexpectedly.
Even in London, during the casting process, several sessions were interrupted numerous times by a loud scratching noise thought to be coming from under the floorboards of the converted Victorian print house. The agents chalked it up to mice, though none was ever found and the sounds were a bit too loud to come from tiny vermin. Or perhaps a dog in the adjacent studio? No, there was none. Curiously, the scratches were not heard again once casting on “The Conjuring 2” was completed.