'The Conjuring 2' Set Visit: The Adventures Of Ed And Lorraine Warren Continue

The Conjuring 2 mostly takes place in in Enfield, London, but that's not where we travelled to visit the set of director James Wan's horror sequel. On this day in the schedule, the shoot was in Santa Clarita, CA — an unmistakable double for Enfield, London. Working not too far from the Warner Bros. lot, on a soundstage, the crew built the kind of basement you expect to see in a horror movie: dark, wet, and dangerous.

But, hopefully, like the first film, The Conjuring 2 isn't the kind of movie we expect.

Wan stepped up his game with the 2013 film. The director behind SawInsidious, and Furious 7 made a massively successful R-rated horror movie, although it was originally intended to be PG-13. Wan, as he did with the Insidious franchise, is returning for this sequel, which is set in a different place and takes place years after the first film. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga reprise their roles as Ed and Lorraine Warren, and the paranormal investigators take on a far greater threat this time: British ghosts.

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The Story 

From 1977 to 1980, 284 Green Street was home to both the Hodgson family and evil spirits, as the story goes. A single mother, Peggy (Frances O'Connor), and her four children begin to experience strange events in their suburban home: levitating chairs, beds shaking, and children flying in the air. The Enfield case became famous, and it was both covered and criticized by the press.

Not everyone believed the Hodgson's story, and maybe for good reason. One of the Hodgson daughters, Janet, was caught on film staging an occurrence, but she's denied the story, saying she was trying to win over doubters and that only "2%" of events were faked. Plenty of skeptics surrounded the case, but Ed and Lorraine Warren were a part of the select few that tried to help the Hodgson family.

No Amityville Horror?

At the end of the The Conjuring, Amityville is mentioned — a famous case for the Warren couple. Many interpreted the mention of Long Island as a hint for what's to come, and it was certainly considered a possible story for the sequel. Producer Rob Cowan told us and a group of other outlets in attendance that The Conjuring 2, in fact, begins in Amityville:

The very beginning of the movie is what really happened: they went into Amityville and they hold a séance and they fairly quickly after the whole thing happened and they went in and hold the séance and wander around the house, there's a very famous photograph of a little boy that's in the house that they thought was one of the kids, so we play all of that out with a little bit of a hook moment that plays throughout the movie and then has a big pay off at the end of the movie.

You can see the photograph above, and, yes, it is quite chilling.

The filmmakers were also initially considering the Enfield haunting for the sequel. The beauty of ADR is what made the mention of Amityville happen, though.

Cowan explained:

When we shot The Conjuring, they said, "We just got a call about a case in London," and when we were just doing the final post, we had them loop it and change it to Long Island, which was a little easier to do than saying Amityville. At the time, we had already started talking about Enfield, and at that point it was one movie. We just thought, Well, if you want to give everybody a little fun thing it's better to have done Amityville. But that is a cool thing about the Warrens: they've touched on a lot of these very well known events. We're shooting the Amityville sequence tomorrow.

As for London, only a few days of principal photography took place there, for some exterior scenes. The Hodgson family home rested happily over at stage four on the Warner Bros. lot, where the crew recreated the Green Street Neighborhood the film depicts. The producers claimed the sequel has a very different atmosphere than the first picture, that this is a darker, rainier and bigger sequel.

Stay Away From That Basement, It Will Probably Kill You

The group of us sat behind two monitors, watching the day unfold. Behind the monitors was the basement set, which was flooded, cluttered and darkly lit, with light coming in through the windows. At the start of our visit, we saw one of the film's villains, Old Bill, on the monitors, holding his breath under the water. Old Bill creeps up on Warren in the basement, and then...we won't spoil that part, but most of our time on day 33 of principal photography involved keeping our eyes glued to this basement, which took three weeks to build.

Stage one of flooding was underway, a flood that continues to rise in the Hodgson family home throughout the film. Both basement-set scenes we observed involved Patrick Wilson. Despite the same setting, the scenes couldn't have been more different — one is driven by scares, the other by emotion.

The first scene required a lot of precision on Wilson's part. While going to do laundry, Peggy discovered the basement flooded. To make matters worse, something in the water bit her, and Ed, always the gentleman, checked out the situation. As he asked questions and reached in the water, the camera, on the very top of the water, quietly moved in, with a sense of menace. Wilson had to pick up what was under the water at just the right time for the camera to capture it perfectly.

With each take, Wan, sporting red hair and a t-shirt, gave clear directions: "Move in closer to the water," etc. The director wanted to get even closer to the action, though, so they re-gigged the camera, which took about 15 minutes. When Wan got what he wanted, including a striking reflection of Wilson in the murky water, they moved on.

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The Warrens Are Back

Ed and Lorraine Warren's relationship is the heart of The Conjuring. Their love is strong, and how much they care for each other heightens the emotional stakes of the first movie. Actress Vera Farmiga wasn't present in the first two scenes we saw, but she appeared later in the day.

Farmiga was working off-camera, shouting lines to Wilson. This was clearly a big third-act moment, but nothing was spoiled. Ed and Lorraine were torn apart, and both opened up to each other from the opposite sides of a stuck basement door.

Maybe Farmiga didn't have to be on the set that day, as her main chunk of the scene was already shot, but the actress and Wilson often like to be there for each other, off-camera, as Farmiga told us:

I did the reverse two days ago at Warner Brothers on the set. It helps the actor. I know it certainly did for me. It always does. I had him come in the other day just for a brief eye-line. I needed him as an eye-line. There's something that happens when I look at him. You know, we're very good friends. I'm very good friends with his wife. Our families are very close. There's something so different about looking at him, and there's something effortless that happens. So there I am looking at my close up. We try to do that for each other. And when you can't, you can't; you just have to work harder.

Like Farmiga and Wilson, all the characters in the film want to do is help. Patrick Wilson discussed with us the investigators' bond to the case and the family:

I don't think that they're going to go that length to fly over there if they don't think there's something real. If you read all those sort of history about it, it's the most documented case around. They tried really, really hard and I think you only do that when you really care. I tried to believe that as I'm playing them because it was a long, long process and any of those sort of skeptics and doubters, when I saw those two women here, Jen and Margaret, it was a much different experience that the Perron girls [on the first movie] when we met them and they're women, because Jen and Margaret were still very much in it in a strange way. You see how it really took a toll on them and the feeling that they had for, because Lorraine was here too that time, was very open. They hugged each other right. You could tell that whatever your skepticism is whether you believe in this or not, there were two people that one older woman desperately tried to help, and that's huge.

Wilson added "some of the stuff, for me, that made the first movie transcend a horror film for, as an actor, was the great characters that they created." If the sequel comes together, Wilson and Farmiga will once again play real, well-drawn characters, not horror movie archetypes. While there is plenty of running and screaming in the first movie, time is actually invested in developing Ed and Lorraine Warren's storyline. They are characters you want to return to, and not just to see them battling evil forces.

A New Face of Evil

We caught a glimpse at one of the ghosts the Warrens will face off against: Old Bill. No one we spoke to would reveal too much about the sequel's villains, but Old Bill, like Annabelle, is certainly a character Cowan and others are considering for a spinoff:

There's a character that we just had finished shooting some of, and I can't say much about him, and again, the movie's got to come out, we've got to see how the response is, but it's a character that we love and we hope eventually, like Annabelle, that it could spinoff into its own story.

For what it it was, Annabelle was a cheap movie, and it made over $250 million at the worldwide box-office. With that figure in mind, there is no way The Conjuring 2 comes out without a spinoff character ready to go.

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James Wan Is Back, Too

Wan is a busy, busy man. He shot The ConjuringInsidious: Chapter II, and Furious 7 almost all back-to-back. After the tone he established with the first Conjuring, it would've been a shame if he didn't return for the sequel. While Cowan said the sequel would've been made without Wan, he stressed they wanted him back and were ready to wait for the right time and the right script:

James' schedule goes hand in hand with getting the script right. We've really good writers who've been working on it and and the creative team all around with the studio and everybody are great and have great ideas, but at the end of the day, it comes down to James putting his imprint on it. And with Fast 7, that was the biggest problem. Unfortunately, with the death of Paul Walker, that pushed that movie off so far, almost a year, otherwise we would have been kicked into gear a lot earlier. But there was always the structure and the basic idea of the script was down, but it really took James to finish-finish on that movie because it was so hard on many levels, particularly the Paul thing, with him having to deal with that, and then we had to wait for him to finish and then once he finished, then the thing just kind of really started to churn.

Wan, along with David Johnson (Oprhan), and Chad and Carey Hayes (The Conjuring) wrote The Conjuring 2.

Will The Conjuring 2 Match The First Movie?

No clue. You can't predict such a thing midway through a shoot, especially someone doing a set visit, but based on what we heard and witnessed, the key players are making the sequel for the right reasons. We didn't get the opportunity to speak with James Wan on the set, but honestly, he's at a point in his career where he doesn't have to make a movie he doesn't want to; he's definitely not making The Conjuring 2 for the hell of it.

Producer Pete Safran mentioned Wan is not back because he has to be, but because he has something to say:

It would be a completely different experience [if he didn't return] because it's such a luxury to have the guy who is working at the absolute top of his game doing exactly what he does best. It's really rare. We were so lucky to have him on the first one, and we never thought we'd have him back for the second one, truthfully. And he came back because he had something to say. He said he'd only come back if he felt he could make a movie that was worthy of being the successor to the first one. If he could make a character-driven movie that was also the scariest movie you've ever seen.

What exactly does Wan want to say with the sequel? We'll find out when The Conjuring 2 hits theaters on June 10th.