“The Conjuring” proves that you don’t have to indulge in torture porn to be scary. In fact, the well-crafted throwback is a family drama driven by horror. It’s a true life story from 1971 about a family tormented by spirits in their secluded Rhode Island farmhouse, and how renowned paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) come to their rescue. As the film has already scored at festivals with audiences and critics, New Line is wasting no time in developing a franchise; they’re already combing the Warren files for another famous case to make. (See trailer and featurette below.)
For director James Wan (“Insidious,” “Saw”), it represents a back-to-basics horror swan song before segueing to “Fast & Furious 7.” And for Farmiga (“Bates Motel”), it’s an opportunity to step out of her comfort zone as the flamboyant clairvoyant.
“There was a big part of me that wanted to show that there are many ways of scaring people without throwing out buckets of blood,” Wan admits. “With ‘The Conjuring,’ besides setting it back in the ’70s, I wanted to capture that time period, not just in the photography, the production design, and the wardrobe and hair, but the sensibility as well.”
Wan has always been fascinated by the Warrens, who later became associated with the more notorious Amityville case. They were soul mates dedicated to helping families torn apart by supernatural occurrences.
Wan also liked making a studio film because he no longer had to cut corners. He recalls that he had to resort to a flashy MTV style with “Saw” because he only had time to get a few camera moves. There were moments when the movie didn’t cut at all, so he was forced to experiment with still photography as rough bridges, but obviously the energy and visual language worked beyond his wildest expectations.
“Usually when you do an indie film, you give up a real budget so you can get creative control to make the movie you want,” Wan adds. “But sometimes that’s a contradiction because the movie you want costs time and money to shoot it. And so what was great with ‘The Conjuring’ was not only did New Line let me make the movie I wanted to make but I also had the financial support and time.
“That allowed me to compose my scenes the way I wanted to shoot them, and have the tools at my disposal to do my camera work, spend time and money building sets. And the extra time meant I could spend more time with the actors. And I needed time to work with six kids.”
Although he was surprised at the R-rating, after viewing “The Conjuring” at the recent LA Film Festival, he now understands why it was too frightening to get a PG-13 yet still wants teenagers to see it because of its thematic importance about two families pulling together.
And not wanting to be labeled a horror director, Wan will now approach “Fast & Furious 7” as a family-centric heist movie. “I got this gig because I didn’t talk about cars, I didn’t talk about action, I talked about the character arcs and the family unit.”
As for Farmiga, she approached “The Conjuring” as a love story between Ed and Lorraine, as well as “a story about compassion, giving and receiving it in those desperate times of need. And the strong maternal theme about mothers protecting their daughters. Thematically, if you look at my choices, there is some exploration of maternal angst and maternal heroism.”
Farmiga just wanted to absorb Lorraine’s “mad style: the way she communicates with her hands and how she moves through space.” She insisted on wearing her style of funky clothes that she calls “punk,” and likes having a real life model to mesh with her own personality.
It looks like “The Conjuring,” which was pushed back from a January release to this Friday because of positive test screenings, will be a franchise for Farmiga, who is signed for a sequel.