The Conjuring 2 director James Wan appeared at WonderCon on Saturday to discuss the upcoming film, based on the case the case files of real life paranormal investigators Ed and Loraine Warren. But to find the right idea for the sequel, Wan sifted though the Warrens' extensive research. "They say they've investigated four to ten thousand cases and it was a challenge to decide which one," he said.
"We knew that we had to touch on their most famous case and that is Amityville," he continued. In 1975, the Warrens investigated the house that would inspire an endless Amityville Horror films series. But with that incident so well-known to horror fans, a direct retelling of that story was not necessarily attractive. "That dictated what the movie would be and that landed on the Enfield case. It and Amityville are the two most documented [Warren] cases and they mirror each other," he explained.
Between 1977 and 1979, Peggy Hodgson and her children experienced strange occurrences in their rented house in Enfield, England. And though the incidents were eventually dismissed, Ed Warren claimed he once saw one of the children floating in mid air while sound asleep.
But whether hoax or a real case of demons, the world of The Conjuring allowed the events to seem real.
The incident also allowed Wan to focus on the Warrens, played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga. He thought part of the appeal of the first film was the Warrens and the strengths of the actors, saying, "Having strong characters and actors to play them really allowed it to connect."
But using the Warren's real case files also allowed Wan to ground the scares in a seemingly mundane universe; something he thinks works well in film. "I think scares are probably the hardest thing to do people can be dismissive of [them]," he said. "Coming up with something that's relevant to our every day life resonates … I think of things that would scare me and articulate that cinematically."
And though casts and crews of horror movies often have spooky experiences, Wan chalked it up to an heightened awareness of the material. "I think when you're making a scary movie, you read more into things than when you're making a comedy," he explained. On the first Conjuring, he recalled the real Lorraine Warren sensed the history of some of the period furniture used in the production, but "as a director, you're so busy [that] you never experience anything too scary."
During a brief audience Q&A, Wan discussed the evolving nature of his style, from the rough-and-tumble Saw to the more mannered look of his recent work. "My aesthetic tends to be classical even if Saw didn't show it," he explained. "That had a lot to do with how low budget it was and how I had to shoot around how little money we had. It as also my first movie, so I tried to hide as much of the flaws as I could." He added that The Conjuring and Insidious films are more representative of his overall style.
Even on the more frenetic Fast & Furious 7, he tried to maintaining the grounding with practical effects, but "we had to do a lot of visual effects for safety reasons."
Looking forward to Aquaman, he said he expects to find similar challenges to the ones he has faced since Saw. "I've had success in the smallest indie world to something like Furious 7, so I've run the whole spectrum of budget," he explained. "But to me, it's all really the same. You still need to be creative. You may have the best tools to make it work, but you need characters and story. If you have that, you can put them in any situation, big or small."
The Conjuring 2 opens on June 10th.