People love a good scare, an adage proved once again at New York Comic Con when Chris Hardwick moderated a panel devoted to The Conjuring, the upcoming horror film from Saw and Insidious director James Wan.
The New Line release is based on the true story of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga), who are called in 1971 to a haunted Rhode Island farmhouse owned by the Perron family (the parents are played by Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor). As Wan explained, the house is actually inhabited by several spirits, but the worst of the bunch is the ghost of a witch that imprints itself on the family.
While the trailer played, the audience clearly found itself engrossed in the atmosphere of the period piece. For as many shrieks and gasps as there were during the video, there were twice as many cheers as it ended and the lights came back on.
Hardwick then brought some lightness to the fairly freaked-out crowd by bringing out Wilson, Livingston and Taylor to rousing applause. Immediately after an introduction, another clip played, this one a longer scene in which Taylor is tormented by a ghost. Again, the scene got a huge reaction from the crowd.
When asked by an audience member who claimed to have lived next to the real haunted house whether they had conducted research there, Wan said they didn’t. However, the filmmakers did visit the Warrens’ house, which has a room where they keep items connected to nefarious spirits.
“Vera and I drove up to see Lorraine, and Vera didn’t want to go into the haunted room,” Wilson said, admitting that as a skeptic he found it difficult to put himself in the world of these people who believe so intensely in such things.
Asked whether it’s as scary to be involved with a horror movie as it is to watch one, Livington conceded, “I’ve acted in other movies that were terrifying, but that’s because I didn’t think they were very good.”
Taylor said she didn’t have any scary moments while filming. “A lot of it is technical,” she said of the special effects. “James does a lot of old-school effects and not much CGI. You’re pretending and you know that which is why you’re an actor and not in an institution.”
“I’m a chicken shit,” Wan said. “I put the things that scare me on screen and it’s my therapy.” He added that this film is much more grounded than something like Insidious, which was also a haunting story.
Asked if he was interested in directing a third ghost movie, Wan said he might have one more in him, but he also wants to move on to other genres. He even joked he’s going to do the next Batman movie and he’s going to get Insidious and Conjuring star Wilson to be his Bruce Wayne/Batman.
Wan compared The Conjuring to other haunting movies like The Amityville Horror, but also said, “I wanted to make a movie that felt like we went back in time to the ‘70s and shot the story.”
An audience member then asked if the kids in the film became freaked out. “The girls were fun and could handle it,” Taylor said, adding that their joy sustained the rest of the actors.
Wan, who came from the world of low-budget films with Saw and the lesser-known Stygian, was asked whether he changed his method for this project.
“I do come from the indie world,” he said. “Even though this is a big budget movie, I approach it like an indie.”
The Conjuring opens July 19, 2013.