An R-rated horror film seems like a hard sell to churches, but The Conjuring, which opens today, is trying to do just that.
The marketing team for the newest thriller about demonic possession, which is based on a case recorded by real-life demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren, includes Grace Hill Media, the publicity firm known for aggressively marketing films to the faith community. Their message: The movie is really about family and faith, with a few scares along the way.
According to co-writers Carey and Chad Hayes, the identical-twin writing team whose family friendly bona fides include a couple of Lawrence Brothers films for Disney in the late 1990s, the movie has the potential to evangelize audiences. They say once viewers realize the evil depicted in the movie is real, they will start asking questions about the power of the Warrens’ faith to defeat it.
Are you trying to make horror fans out of the faith community?
Chad: Look what Mark Burnett and Roma [Downey] did with The Bible. Thank the Lord that was successful, because that will open up the gate. If The Conjuring is successful, we will be able to present so many more religious-themed films that can make a point and make a statement, if they have the support of the faith community.
Movie-goers from the faith community are known for liking “uplifting” movies. Will Christians want to go to such a dark place, even to see good triumph over evil?
Chad: I would hope that they would give us the benefit of the doubt. In this movie, you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll be scared as if you were on a roller-coaster ride. It’s a compelling drama. I don’t want to say it takes you to such a dark place because it’s not that kind of movie. It’s a thriller with really great scares. And it’s great scares because these are scares that happen to real people.
Carey: The great thing about a scary movie is it’s got to be scary, but the uplifting part is God wins at the end of the movie. So, for us, it’s like, okay, we’ve got to rough it up to show you what a triumph this really was. We got an R rating but there wasn’t one scene where they said, if you cut it out, we’d give you a PG-13. There wasn’t any gore, there wasn’t any sex, there wasn’t any foul language, and there wasn’t any one particular scene. It was just a scary thing that happened to this family.
Would you say the spiritual aspect was part of what made you want to write this movie?
Chad: We were very aware of Ed and Lorraine Warren, and just kind of flipped out thinking “Whoa, they were on this one. So let’s see if we can tell this story through their [point of view].” They were the preeminent paranormal investigators of the ‘70s, with no tools other than faith.
Carey: The only real difference that Ed and Lorraine brought when they walked into that [haunted] Perron house is their faith. That was it. That was the big difference.
Chad: Tonally, Carey and I really wanted to base The Conjuring on Ephesians 6:12: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Without that ever being said in this movie, that’s what this movie is about. And we attached another one just in our thinking process, and that was Luke 10:19. … If you have that within you, you know you have the authority to overcome [evil], and this is the movie about how to overcome it, basically.
Did you research the Warrens’ faith in order to write this script?
Carey: Lorraine filled in all of it.
Chad: [Ed] was one of eight demonologists recognized by the Vatican in the world, and he was the only non-ordained one. They were both very, very devout Catholics.
A sequel has already been announced for The Conjuring, with the two of you attached. Will faith continue to be an important theme in the next film?
Chad: Oh yeah. Very much so. It’s based on another one of [the Warrens’] cases. It will be very different than the first one.