While some people may believe that horror filmmakers are in need of psychiatric assistance, James Wan thinks crafting fright flicks actually helps him stay sane. “You put all that scary s— on the screen so you don’t have to carry it around with you every day,” says Wan, whose terror tale credits include 2004’s Saw and 2011’s Insidious. “It’s quite therapeutic.”
If true, then Wan must be enjoying a period of scarily good mental health. He produced Lights Out (out July 22), about a ghastly phantom which dwells in the dark, and directed horror sequel The Conjuring 2 (out June 10), which finds Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga reprising their roles as real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren.
Horror fans have been speculating that Wilson and Farmiga will look into the so-called Amityville Horror in Wan’s sequel, a case the actual Warren’s did investigate. While the director admits Amityville is referenced in The Conjuring 2, the bulk of the film will concern a different “true life” haunting known as the Enfield Poltergeist, which took place in London during the late ’70s.
“After we finished the first Conjuring, a lot of people were speculating and hoping that the next movie would be the Amityville case,” says Wan. “I knew I had to touch on Amityville but I knew that I didn’t want to make another movie about the Amityville story, because there’s been so many stories told off that particular case. To me, the Enfield case is a mirror story to the Amityville case. We even have a line in the movie where one of the characters says, ‘This is England’s Amityville,’ just to really make that connection between the two. Both cases are highly publicized, both cases have their fair share of fans, and both cases have their fair share of skeptics. It’s the other side of the pond, but dealing with similar stories.”
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Although the film was mostly shot in Los Angeles, Wan faithfully replicated many aspects of the actual case, down to the posters of Starsky and Hutch and the Bay City Rollers which hung on the walls of the bedroom belonging to the haunted family’s daughters. “The more grounded in reality you can make it, the more realistic the movie will play,” he says. “The scares will resonate much stronger.”
Early in the film’s production, it was announced that the set had been blessed by a priest. Did that have as much to do with drumming up a bit of early publicity for the movie as it did drumming out evil spirits?
“I show up one day, and, Whoa, there’s a priest there!” laughs Wan. “And let me tell you, there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s nothing wrong with asking for a blessing and good positive energy on a film shoot. You know, a film shoot can be a dangerous place and filmmaking and can be very tough. Everything that helps to sweep out some of the negative energy is not a bad thing.”
You can see the trailer for The Conjuring 2, below.