Posted on Thursday, June 9th, 2016 by Jack Giroux
In 2013, James Wan directed his most successful and critically acclaimed horror film, The Conjuring. Instead of rushing a sequel to a start date, all involved waited for Wan — a filmmaking machine who has had four features come out in the last three years — to come back for the sequel, which sees the return of paranormal investigators Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga). This time, the couple venture overseas for the Enfield Haunting.
At the press day for The Conjuring 2, Wan discussed with us his career, the pace of the film, working with kid actors, and more. We began our conversation with Wan discussing a striking long take in the sequel, in which Ed communicates with an evil spirit, Old Bill. It’s the kind of seamless long take you don’t know is a long take until it’s over. Below, read our James Wan interview.
How did that long take of Ed talking to old Bill come about?
I loved it. It’s funny, a lot of people talked to me about how much they like the moving camera work, and one of the things I love about what I did in this movie is actually the one scene where we stopped the camera from moving. [Laughs.] I think there’s something very dynamic to that, in the same way, when I speak about sound design and music. The presence of music is very powerful, but so is the absence of sound as well and the absence of music. Same with camera movement. There are two interviews in the film, with that scene [featuring Ed] and the documentary crew interviewing Janet Hodgson [Madison Wolfe], and so I shot and edited that in a much more traditional way, much more conventional movie way.
By the time we get to Ed’s interview of her, I wanted to do something different. I wanted to put the audience in the mindset of the Warrens and the characters because Janet says, “It doesn’t want to speak unless you guys look away.” I wanted to shoot in such a way where when Patrick turns his back to face her, and then the focus now racks to him. Even though we think we see something in the background, we’re still not quite sure what we’re seeing. It’s very vague at the same time, and I like that. I like that you’re just equally unsure of what is going on as the main characters are.
On set, what was there [for the obscured figure behind Ed]?
What was there? You want me to give the trick away? [Laughs.] Oh, man, don’t make me tell.
[Laughs.] You can keep it a secret.
[Laughs.] Let’s keep some mystery.
Is that important for you to preserve some mystery about filmmaking?
I do. I do to a big degree. That is a reason why I don’t like doing audio commentaries for any of my films. I did it for the Saw film because I felt obligated to Lionsgate because they asked me, but ever since I don’t do more audio commentaries because I do think it’s important that you just watch the movie without having too much given away.
The Conjuring 2 is a very sweet horror movie. The affinity these films have for the Warrens is apparent.
Yes, we love the characters. That was part of the reason why I decided to come back to Conjuring 2. I get to expand on the role of these two people, the cinematic version of Ed and Lorraine. The versions that Patrick and Vera Farmiga played, I really love them. Also, I wanted to do something that feels different to a lot of horror movies. Especially a lot of studio horror films. That is, take the time to actually create these characters that you care about, get to know them a bit more. Just come up with character moments that you wouldn’t usually see in a typical horror film. One of my favorite sequences in the whole movie is when Patrick tries to get the family together. He plays them an Elvis song, and I feel like that sequence says a lot about how we feel about his character and how he interacts with the family. Also, with that one scene, there’s lots of layers to it. Not only makes the family feel a bit happy with what’s happening, but also it’s a montage sequence and also shows how Lorraine is feeling about everything.
You’re not afraid to take your time with those character moments.
I mean, I will tell you what the most incredible thing is when I finished the movie I was like, “Man, it is a long movie, and I want to cut it down more,” but I wasn’t quite sure what areas to … I’ve read some of the criticisms of the movie that, yes, it’s long. In the same article, they criticize they length, they also talk about how much they love the characters and I was like, “Well, you can’t have both.” [Laughs.] You can’t say you love the scares and you love the characters and complain that it’s long because I took the time to create those characters and those moments. I think you want that. If not, there are lots of other horror movies that just breeze through. Plenty of those for you guys to watch as well.