James Wan’s Conjuring franchise, complete with its various spin-offs, has come to define a generation of horror. One of the most recognisable universes is back this week with the third film ‘The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It’. Like others in the series, it is based on a true story taken directly from the casefiles of Ed and Lorraine Warren, but this isn’t quite the staple haunted house horror you may be used to from this team.
Michael Chaves, director of ‘The Curse of La Llorona’, directs the film while Peter Safran and James Wan move back to the producers chairs. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga are back as everyone’s favourite supernatural fighting duo. Throw in a ostensibly simple demonic possession and it soon becomes clear that this case isn’t that straightforward when lives are at stake.
During a recent press conference attended by James Wan, Peter Safran, Michael Chaves and stars Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga and Ruairi O’Connor we got the lowdown on the making of the film. The Warrens’ cases covers many decades, but what was it that made the filmmaker crew decide to plump with one that is seemingly one of the Warren’s most controversial cases to date? Director Michael Chaves was quick to let us know, that for them, it was a natural progression.
“From the very beginning, I spoke with James and I spoke with Peter, I think that for any franchise to seem fresh or be fresh there needs to be invention and reinvention. We wanted to tell a Conjuring story but in a way, we haven’t seen before. This is, in a lot of ways more a supernatural thriller – we are taking the Warrens on the road, it’s one of their darkest cases, they are always marketed as the darkest Conjuring film and I think in so many ways this really is. When you really look at the case, it’s one of their most controversial cases; I think the whole thing is just so fascinating”.
We finally move out of the ’70s in the latest offering, for Wan it was the right thing to do considering all the cases that they could have covered.
“It felt like a natural progression – We had spent a lot of time in the ’70s, Ed and Lorraine’s cases, their careers ran from the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s and into the ’90s it just felt like the natural progression to move into. Aesthetically it just felt like it was the right thing to do, we’d exhausted that ’70s look and the ’80s was the natural way to go. Now there are a lot of TV shows that are taking place in the ’80s but it was naturally where the story and the characters and just the period of the story it wanted to take us into.”
Safran added “We were also driven by the real-life case, so we would try to figure out the story that we wanted to tell and set it in the appropriate era. Because we don’t, in our films, don’t hit it on the head what the era is, with the movies we did in the ’70s it wasn’t the disco ’70s, so the change for Ed and Lorraine between the ’70s and ’80s is not so dramatic for us.”
As previously mentioned, the third instalment moves away from your typical haunted house format and branches out to areas not explored in this franchise before, opting to give the story a more procedural element, transforming into a fresh new outlook.
Chaves stated; “We’ve seen them [The Warrens] in two haunted house movies before, probably two of the best haunted house films that we’ve seen. The great thing about a procedural is you are on the road you are going into different environments, you are working with different people. It’s taking you outside of what is a comfortable setting at this point in their careers and in our experience with the Warrens the haunted house has become a comfortable setting so I think it gives us an opportunity to take them into places we haven’t seen. What I am so excited about is there are sequences in the movie that hasn’t even been in the trailers but everybody loves them when they see them and it’s because they are so out of the experience of what we are used to.”
With a new film comes new faces one that inevitably becomes the focal point of the film, having previously starred in the series ‘The Spanish Princess’, Ruairi O’Connor took on the role of the dark and dangerous even though his beliefs were a bit more cynical. Instead of taking a few references from previous portrayals of character possessions – it was all a bit more clinical for O’Connor.
“It was a huge challenge for me because I’m very scientifically minded and very cynical. I remember talking to Vera on set a lot; she has this really kind of warm openness to there maybe being some kind of paranormal or something beyond. She’s just playful with it. We would be talking about little spooky things that happened during The Conjuring and the other films as well and I was just wishing I would get some kind of spooky event that would bed me into it but unfortunately, it didn’t so I worked with my acting coach a lot to dredge up personal demons and stuff like dying of an illness to rail against and ground it. When I watched the film recently, I was like a 14-year-old kid watching a movie I shouldn’t be watching.”
Finally, we come to the ever-present couple Ed and Lorraine Warren aka Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga giving us that underlying love story and devotion of each other playing out a balancing act and keeping the darkness grounded. For both Wilson and Farmiga the reasoning, in their eyes, for the audience’s fascination for them is that very affection the couple, as written for the film, has for one another.
“I know what I find fascinating, that they are the personification of love. It is a love story, for me it’s more of a love story than a horror story that’s what makes it so unique and successful and that’s why I enjoy coming back. That message of love, not only the Warrens for each other but for the work that they do and for the people that they help, that selflessness, that compassion, that embodiment of love is really something holy and special”, said Farmiga
Wilson added “I always have to go back to the first film and the conversations with James [Wan] early on about the way that the structure of these films are going to be built with following these different cases and these different families but really centred around the Warrens and what we are going to through. They become the through-line for all these films. That’s something that sets us apart from other horror franchises is that you are following the good guys throughout instead of the villain. When you know you can centre around love, and it’s our version of Ed and Lorraine we don’t know how they were behind closed doors, It’s our version of what Ed and Lorraine are. When you know you can centre around that, then I think in some way it frees you up to go as dark as you want in the other aspects because you really get to balance it out as I would say this film has some of the darkest moments of any in the universe.”
Whatever people may say about this universe, there is no denying its attraction for its supernatural obscurity and the devotion for both their work and each other The Warrens endured throughout their lives together – Here’s betting James Wan and the team will be dining out on this franchise for many years to come.
The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is in UK cinemas from May 28th.