Did something spooky happen on the set of The Conjuring 2?
Filming of The Conjuring sequel, which took place at one of the sound stages at the Warner Brothers Studio in Burbank, California, had wrapped for the day. Most of its cast and crew members had gone home. Only the night crew who was in charge of cleaning the set had remained.
“They saw that at the end of the sound stage, there was these huge curtain drapes. They started swaying on their own,” says director James Wan during a one-on-one interview with Star2 in Seoul, South Korea where he was promoting the film last month.
“They just kept moving. None of the doors were opened, the air-conditioning was switched off. They just moved on their own.”
The strange occurrence, which was captured on camera, was shown to Wan by the film’s lead actor Patrick Wilson.
“And I just watched the video Patrick showed me and this person who was filming just walked right up to the curtain and he saw the whole thing swaying non-stop. And he goes to look behind the curtain and there’s no one there swaying it and there’s no wind in the room,” Wan, 39, shares.
The Malaysia-born Australian director adds that the sound stage where all of The Conjuring 2’s interior shots were filmed is “supposedly one of the most haunted sound stages” at Warner Brothers Studio.
Asked if he had any such encounters himself during the film’s production, he replies: “For me, when I’m directing, I’m always so busy. I’m always moving so quickly. I don’t have the chance to notice anything.
“I could have a ghost standing right next to me and I won’t even know it,” he says.
Going beyond horror
In the second instalment of The Conjuring, real-life husband and wife paranormal investigators Ed (Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) take on one of the most well-documented supernatural hauntings in Britain, the Enfield Poltergeist (nicknamed Britain’s Amityville).
Set in 1977, they travel to Enfield, a suburb in London, to help single mother Peggy Hodgson (Frances O’Connor) and her four children who are plagued by demonic possessions.
But more than just another ghostbusting case, viewers will notice that the Warrens’ relationship is put to the test, as a dark, sinister force is out to get the couple themselves.
“Knowing who Lorraine is and knowing from stories I’ve heard from Lorraine herself, and stories from other people about them, it fostered my ideas of who they are,” Wan explains his decision to bring the Warrens’ relationship to the fore.
“It’s this loving couple who does this weird job that most people would think strange, but they have so much conviction in what they do. The belief they have is because of their faith in their religion and ultimately their faith in each other. I always wanted to get that across.”
And perhaps it also has something to do with the director’s love for romantic films, a fact he has made known in previous interviews.
“I’ve always said that I wanted to make a love story, and it seems the only way I can do it is by hiding it in a horror film,” he says with a laugh. “That’s exactly why I did it in The Conjuring 2.”
The highly-anticipated follow-up also brings with it a sense of lightness. Wan shares during a press conference with Asian journalists why he felt it was important to include a comedic element to the film: “When I was designing The Conjuring 2, a lot of times I kept saying, ‘Oh this scene would be really funny.’ And then I realised, ‘Am I making a comedy or a horror film here?’
“You can’t just keep doing scares after scares for the audience. You need to break it up with something lighter. You need the humour to make the scares play stronger.”
Speaking of scares, compared to The Conjuring which rarely showed any of the demons behind the hauntings, in just the trailer for its sequel alone, a demonic nun is featured pretty prominently.
Wan talks about his decision to put a face to the demons this time around: “This demonic nun is a really creepy character. I feel like I could show more of her because Lorraine’s character is psychic, and she sees these things.
“But for the English family, they don’t see as much, they’re not seeing what it is that’s haunting them. So hopefully there’s a balance between the two families.”
Ultimately, The Conjuring 2 sees a combination of horror, humour and romance as Wan believes it is a more holistic approach to telling the Warrens’ story.
“I don’t see The Conjuring movie as just a horror film, I just see it as a drama movie about two people and the drama that they deal with just happens to be of the supernatural sort,” he offers.
“When Ed was still alive, his approach to a lot of the ghostbusting that he did was very blue collar, meaning, it was just like a day job to him.
“It’s no different than a plumber coming to your house and fixing your toilet or an electrician fixing the light switches. He treated it like a normal everyday job. That’s the vibe I really wanted to go for.”
Wan also talks about his own thoughts on the supernatural and the existence of the afterlife, saying: “I keep an open mind about the things that I might not be able to see.
“Being raised religious means that I take certain things with a touch of faith, in terms of my beliefs. I do believe in stuff like this, that’s why I think I’m somewhat attracted to this world.”
Wan reveals he is a little superstitious too. The director always dyes his hair red each time he is filming a movie.
“It didn’t start out that way. I didn’t do it for my first two movies, but then I started doing it and it became a tradition. It’s a bit annoying to keep colouring it red,” he shares.
So will the director be sporting his signature red hair again for his future projects?
“I did it for The Conjuring 2 because my producers were all very superstitious and they wanted me to do it. I think it’s time to move on, maybe? We’ll see.”
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The Conjuring 2 opens at cinemas nationwide today.