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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.

Continue Reading ‘The Conjuring 2’ Set Visit >>

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