When The Conjuring released in the summer of 2013, its meteoric success couldn’t have been predicted by the wildest psychic. Even the subjects of the film itself – paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren – might’ve found the film’s success a near-supernatural event. Critical raves, audience fanfare and $300 million later, it was obvious that the film deserved – and would certainly get – a proper sequel. But its massive success only helped to propel director James Wan deeper into the blockbuster realm of the Fast and Furious franchise. Fans were held over by the success of film’s demonic-doll spin-off Annabelle, but after three long years, appetites are high for a true sequel.
Enter The Conjuring 2: The Enfield Poltergeist, spinning the highly publicized story of Ed and Lorraine Warren’s terrifying confrontation with a London entity in 1977. Where the first film told the tale of a tight-knit American family ravaged by a local spirit, the sequel focuses on a divorced, single-mother of four, Peggy Hodgson. Struggling to protect her children – most especially her daughters Janet and Margaret – from the demonic force that’s stalking them, Margaret enlists the help of the Warrens.
Screen Rant was invited to the set of The Conjuring sequel to get a sense of the story and how the period-London setting would re-define The Conjuring franchise. “This really took us into a different world,” says producer Rob Cowan. “Particularly with London at that time. The 1970s, pre-Thatcher, the look of it, the whole idea of these council homes, row houses… It still had the basic bones of the original movie, but we wanted to try something new, make the audience feel like they’re seeing something fresh.”
In the darkness of a semi-flooded basement, director James Wan excitedly sets up the scare. Actor Patrick Wilson, reprising his role as Ed Warren, is about to make contact; a second actor, ragged and impossibly old, looms silently in the shadows, waiting to strike across the rippling floor. The scene runs. A flurry of movement; gutteral screaming in the darkness. The ever-excitable Wan calls cut and what-if’s another shot – what he calls his “Anaconda Shot,” tracking through the murky water. It’s a confident, off-the-cuff improvisation, the earmark of an innovative director with as much energy as focus.
He reads the scene, responds to the set, and maps out yet another scare.
The Enfield event is in many ways a more popular and widely documented case than the story of the first film, subject to scrutiny and skepticism even today. Chances are good that if you’ve ever watched a real-life haunting documentary, you’ve heard the story.
“It’s a very Google-able case. Whether or not it was a hoax was very prevalent at the time. You can’t hide from that,” says producer Peter Safran. “Ed and Lorraine have to deal with skeptics all the time, with being called charlatans…But there’s no doubt at all in Janet’s mind or Margaret’s mind that this took place. And Lorraine never tries to persuade you over to her point of view. For those involved, it was very, very real.”
Whether it’s the Warrens themselves or the real-life victims, Wan and his team strive not only to craft a terrifying film, but to the honor the survivors. “Nobody – especially living people – wants to see themselves as flawed characters,” says producer Rob Cowan. “It’s a real fine line to walk. There’s some creative license, obviously, but we wanted to be sure that the movie was telling the essence of who they really were and what they went through.”
As the day wraps up – Farmiga feeding Wilson the scene’s final lines – planning turns to the next day’s scene. And while we’ll have to wait a few more months to see it, Safran and Cowan gleefully tease one hell of a surprise. The opening sequence, promised at the conclusion of the first Conjuring and paid-off at the opening of the second:
Amityville. The Great, White Whale of haunted houses.
“We wanted to kick off the movie with a fun, little thing,” says Cowan. “And that’s the cool thing about the Warrens, that they’ve touched upon so many of these very well known events.”
And really, that more than anything is what makes The Conjuring so unique. No other horror series in recent memory has opted to follow its heroes instead of its villains. Iconic slashers and titular creatures are dime-a-dozen in horror these days, but The Conjuring keeps the focus firmly on the Warren and the families they dedicated their lives to protect. And wherevdr a particular evil finds favor with the audience, there’s always spin-off potential.
When asked if there’s an element to this Conjuring similar to the possessed rag-doll Annabelle, Cowan only grins. “Absolutely, there is. I can’t say much about him…but it’s a character we love and hope that eventually – like Annabelle – it could spin off into its own story.
And while we wait to see this June just who that character might be, we can’t help but wonder if Wan and his team are already thinking further down the road.
“In terms of a third Conjuring,” laughs Safran, “we haven’t delved into that yet. It all depends on where inspiration. The Warrens are a great resource. You have to make sure you come up with something that’s worthy of the franchise.”
Be sure to check out our on-set interviews with Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga and Frances O’Connor. And prepare yourself for The Conjuring 2 when it releases on June 10, 2016.
Reprising their roles, Oscar nominee Vera Farmiga (Up In the Air, Bates Motel) and Patrick Wilson (Insidious, Fargo), star as Lorraine and Ed Warren, who, in one of their most terrifying paranormal investigations, travel to north London to help a single mother raising four children alone in a house plagued by malicious spirits.
The Conjuring 2 opens in theaters June 10, 2016.