"These movies are not directly Christian films, but faith is integrated into them," says Chad Hayes, speaking from the movie's press day at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills. "The idea beneath it all is that when good people do nothing, Satan prevails. Ed and Lorraine only literally had their faith as their weapon, with no cellphones and no gadgets. We learn much more about them and their faith because we're not having to explain everything about them like the first time, and we could show what drove them into their calling."
"I believe that people identify with this because it's a true story they can look up and see that it happened," adds David Leslie Johnson, who teamed up with the Hayes brothers to write the sequel. "Because the characters have this strong faith and you know that they will find a way to a happy ending, this becomes something very rare: a positive horror film. So there's a sense of hope with them. It's not so much the quality of the death and despair, but of the hope you get at the end."
Knowing that "The Exorcist" was notorious for having suffered the deaths of nine people - cast or crew members or their close family members – during its legendarily dark production, Carey Hayes was happy to see that the production invited a Catholic priest to come bless the sets on the first day of shooting the sequel.
For Wan, who has also frightened audiences as the co-creator of the "Saw" and "Insidious" horror franchises, that visit was more of a fun insurance policy for the shoot than a serious endeavor. Yet it's clear that he's been fascinated to see the responses to his films, going from pariah status labeling him as a purveyor of "torture porn" with "Saw" to a master of suspense with Christian heroes in the "Conjuring" films.
"When I made 'Saw' I got accused of being fascist, with 'Insidious' they said I was godless, and now with 'Conjuring,' some say there's too much God," says Wan. "It's really interesting to see people react to my three sets of horror films. These characters are such devout Catholics, there's no way to make a movie about them without touching on that world and their view of it. They use their faith as a crutch to stand on, and their love for each other, and I thought that was such a dynamic thing to show in a movie."
(Column continues below)
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"The Conjuring 2" opens nationwide Friday.