Chad and Carey Hayes are the twin brothers responsible for the screenplay for The Conjuring, a ghost story that's winning accolades from all corners of the horror genre. Their career in writing and production stretches back to the Nineties when they wrote for Baywatch up to present day where their writing has been behind recent horror films such as House of Wax and The Reaping. Here they talk about the creative process and give us some behind the scenes information on The Conjuring.
At what point did you know it was going to be really good and scary?
Chad: When we first started seeing the dailies. James [Wan] did a really great thing - halfway through filming, he surprised everyone when we were out on location and broke for lunch. He said, 'Everyone come into the living room of the location house.' The whole cast and crew crowded into the living room and they had a big flat screen. He'd literally cut a trailer the day before to bring everyone up to speed, and Joe Bishara had written music for it, and it look great. We looked at each other and said, 'We're not even halfway through this movie...' it gave us chills.
Carey: The whole cast and crew, the people who made the movie, were all reacting. We knew it was good.
Chad: James, Carey and I would always challenge ourselves in constructing the scares. We'd go, 'is this scary?' James, as you know, if things scare him then he knows that it'll scare others. We'd go and pitch it to some of the people around and they'd say, 'Yeah, you should put that in...' We're fortunate because we had a list of incidents that had happened to the Perrons, so for us as writers it was how do we construct this story around all that stuff that went on.
Carey: It's such an interesting thing, because as you write, it's like staring at a painting too closely - 'is that good?' You can't tell sometimes. And then you get a fresh reaction to it and go, 'I just need to back up a little bit...'
What did James add to the script?
Chad: The clapping game was his idea, which we thought was brilliant. James added a lot. Carey and I wrote the original script, and when a director comes on board, you just start dissecting it, trying to make every little scene better. We consider our version the bones and then once James says how he's going to move the camera and everything else, he's brilliant at bringing you to a place, fooling you and then bam! Something happens. Those are fun. For us, we just had a great time...
Carey: It was also the first time we've been on the movie from the very beginning to the very end. We were on location for almost three months working on it daily. We had this chance to keep massaging it and making it better and once everything was constructed, then you get the actors' input and it was so cool.
Chad: For example, there's a scene that we love in the movie, and it's a scene where Roger Perron and Ed Warren are leaning across the front of a car and Ed tells Roger that every one of these cases just takes a little bit out of Lorraine. This is from being on the set and realising we need a coming together 'bro scene' between the two dudes, because this is a big deal, the fact that Roger trusts Ed to be part of his family. So that was constructed after being on set and getting a sense of where the movie's going. A great scene too was with Lorraine where the sheet comes off the clothing line and sticks to the invisible body. We've always wanted to put that in a movie and we finally got to do it. But James said, 'Wow... What if she turns around and looks up to the second storey window and Bathsheba is in the window.' There was no one in the window when Vera shot the scene, but we go such a great, honest reaction from her, it added so much. So when you realise your cast can pull this stuff off, it's great.
Carey: Another thing about James is that after our first draft, they said, 'We're going to give this to one director and if he says yes, then we have a greenlight. If he says no, we're going to take some time and shop it around.' We really hoped he liked the script, and he did! What we loved about working with him - and we have no worked this closely or this deeply with any director - he's a writer. He wanted us to take out some scares because he wanted to do a slower build. It was a great idea, because it worked really well.
How much is real and how much was invented?
Chad: I'd say most of it was real. Because it took place for a large time period for the Perrons - for them it was three years and for our movie you can't do that. So we took the scares and built the story to work more around the scares. The clap game we made up, but we tried to stay true to the levels of the home and the way the rooms were structured. It was terrifying because we met the real Perrons, those girls came up to the set and one of them completely freaked out, collapsed to the ground, she was so scared and went running back to the front of the house.
Carey: The scene where the witch is hanging in the tree at the back of the house? The family arrived on location for that and all five girls are walking around the house, talking and one gasps and points out the window. She saw the witch hanging there and ran. And didn't come back.
Chad: When you talk to them, like Andrea the oldest one, you see it in their eyes, you see something terrifying and bad happened to them. We took the responsibility of keeping it truthful. Andrea the oldest daughter embraced Carey and I at the end, and after she'd seen the movie said, 'You guys nailed it...' That felt good.
Carey: Something interesting as well is when we were doing the exorcism, we wanted to do it in Vatican II Latin to make it really real. We worked with this college professor who was a religious studies expert and added so much to it, but Warner Bros. did a screening for the clergy in LA. Chad and I were on a panel last week for something else and this priest walked up to me. He said, 'You don't know me, but I watched your movie and I want to thank you guys for getting it right.' That was a blessing!
Did you keep in contact with Lorraine?
Carey: Do we talk to Lorraine? Yes.
Chad: All the time. When we were first developing the story we talked to her- she lived in Connecticut, we lived in LA, so a lot of it was over the phone. The woman is so awesome, she raises chickens. She has chickens in her house, and they're all house trained.
Carey: She calls them all by name.
Chad: So we're talking to her and we can't hear her over the chickens.
Carey: On two separate occasions talking to her, our phone just started crackling and we couldn't hear here. She said, 'Honeys' - she calls us that - 'honeys hold on...' Then she would say this commanding prayer, "You clear this line!" And the line would go perfectly clear. I was thinking, 'can they follow people through wires?' It happened much more than once. We got to know her over the phone.
Chad: She told us it would be a battle. Just like Ed and Lorraine.
Are you religious?
Chad: We deal in a dark world and if you don't believe in something, you don't have any protection. We've seen too much of it. I have seen a ghost, so no one can tell me a ghost doesn't exist. So you write about these things. We lived in a house in Los Angeles on a canyon and it used to belong to an old French actress called Corinne Calvet. One night I woke up in the middle of the night and there's this old, short fat bald man sitting in my room and keeps trying to cross his legs, and he's looking at me. I have my dog, who's also looking at him, and I said, 'Who are you, what do you want? Why are you here?' It was so macabre. I woke up in the morning and told my brother about it, but I put it off as a weird dream. Then four months later we were down the street at a party and get introduced to Corinne Calvet herself. She goes, 'Have you guys met Henry? He's the ghost who lives in the house, he's a short, fat, bald little man...' And then we were doing research for a film in India that we were going to direct at one point and were witness to an exorcism. It was the most evil, violent person I've seen, who was chained up. And we saw it be successful, it was a Jekyll and Hyde thing. When we started working with Lorraine, we saw - you guys saw it for a minute in the movie - the footage of the guy who has upside down crosses on his skin - that was sent to Carey and I early in the game. This is their world. It wasn't meant for the public to see, it was done to document it. But there were three priests there, the guy was tearing blood, speaking Latin backwards. He had a third grade education! We watched that so many times, because we were such sceptics. But once we got to know Lorraine, we saw the truth.
Is it true that there were weird events on the set?
Chad: Yeah. My son worked on the movie in the camera department and we recreated Lorraine and Ed's artefacts room. He was low man on the totem pole in the camera crew so he was in charge of wrapping up the cables and that stuff. His boss, Scott, sent him back in to get the last cable and he was in their winding up this cable and he walked past where the music box was place and suddenly heard this spinning noise. He turned around and there was this little brass cymbal on the shelf he saw fall on the floor and continue spinning. My son's 19 and it completely freaked him out and told Scott he would never go in again. Oh, and one of the crew came up to Carey and I and said, 'Can you ask Lorraine what a red top hat aura means?' So we went to her and she said, in true Lorraine fashion, 'That's very dark. That's an evil place to be.' I went back to the guy and said, 'I don't know if this is about you, but it means evil, it's not good.' He went scared and we asked him why. He told us that he was working on a television show and one of the stars came over to his house on a Saturday. He opened the door and the TV star freaked out and said he had to go. Our guy asked him what was wrong and was told about the aura. He knew he had this aura because he'd gone to a circus with his daughter and there was a booth that takes pictures of auras. His daughter had this beautiful angelic thing and he had this red top hat aura. He was going through a bad divorce at the time.
Carey: When Lorraine first got on the set, she said, 'there's something here that shouldn't be here.' James told her they'd built the house with all new lumber. She said, 'But you decorated the house with antiques...' Ironically, it was one room we ended up not using, not because of that, but because it didn't flow into the movie.
Because it's based on such terrifying fantasies, does it feel weird to have a movie where you say, 'Go, have fun, watch it!'
Chad: I think if people... yeah, actually. As Carey said earlier, when we write movies it's like a roller coaster for us. You go on the scariest roller coaster ride of your life, but there's a part of you that knows it's safe. That's how we approached this film, to be able to do that.
Carey: I also feel that if you can walk away from the movie and go, 'But you can stop it.' You just have to know it and believe it. So for us, it's that good triumphed over evil.
Chad: Lorraine asked Carey and I early on if we've ever experienced psychic paralysation. When you wake up in the middle of the night and you can't move or scream. She told us we invite those things into a room, or made ourselves vulnerable to this stuff. She said to say a prayer and protect ourselves. I think it's quite common.
What's your favourite scene?
Carey: My favourite scene is Joey King pointing behind the door and screaming. That stuck with me, that little girl nailed that scene. We asked James, what are you going to put behind the door and he said, 'Nothing...' Joey did that probably 50 different times, and tears came every time. When we wrapped for the night, everyone applauded. It was such a real moment for me.
Chad: Hands down it's my favourite moment. She was just so real. Here's another thing I love about James - less is more. Get all your money's worth creatively, put your own stuff there. Then the rules can change between the kids. One is affected, another is not.
Carey: Another favourite scene is when Carolyn, played by Lily, goes, 'Whoever is down there, I'll lock you in here!' You think it's a smart thing to do and then wham! The door shuts on her. For us, that's when the movie really starts going. We've had the calm water, but now we're into something.
How was it using the archives of the Warrens?
Carey: We knew this particular case was the one we'd use because it was the one that unnerved Ed and Lorraine the most. And for the Perrons, they were trying to forget what had happened and tried to move on. But as a fun thing, we've gone through all the Warren cases because we find them fascinating. And if the movie does well we'll hopefully do another one.
Do you believe in demons etc.?
Chad: I've experienced weird things with photographs, where I was with my wife in New Orleans and there were these orbs in all our pictures. We get back to LA and suddenly pictures start falling off the walls. You get up in the middle of the night and your hair's crawling and the dog's staring at something in the corner and you wonder if something came back. We had a friend come and cleanse the house.
Carey: We believe in curses, the dark ceremonial magics. You've got to look it up.
Chad: If you've got the good side, you also have the bad, because the universe is all about balance. In all of our research and our travels, there's a universal thing and that's darkness. You always feel it.
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The Conjuring is in cinemas 2nd August.
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