Love drives the Conjuring movies, says Vera Farmiga

A still from the film The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, starring Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson.
A still from the film The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, starring Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson.PHOTO: WARNER BROS

SINGAPORE - The Conjuring series of supernatural films are popular. And so are its spin-offs - the Annabelle trilogy (2014 to 2019) and one-time features, The Nun (2018) and The Curse Of La Llorona (2019).

All in, the Conjuring Universe has earned almost US$2 billion (S$2.6 billion) globally, making it the second most lucrative horror franchise ever - after the Godzilla monster series, which includes Japanese works dating to the 1950s.

The latest and third Conjuring film, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, opens in cinemas on Friday (June 11). The Conjuring 2 was released in 2016.

How did the first movie in 2013, The Conjuring, which dramatises the exploits of real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, spawn an industry?

Farmiga, 47, who has played the role in the three Conjuring films and a couple of other films in the franchise, says the success of the series lies less in how scary it is but in how it tells viewers that it is all going to be okay in the end.

"Yes, it's a horror franchise, but it's rooted in love. It says, in a mystic way, that love conquers all. That's the message and it's a beautiful message," the American actress tells The Straits Times in an online interview.

"We all go through terror and strife, but in the end, there is the beautiful salve of love."

A dip into the plots of the Conjuring films shows that Ed and Lorraine often expel demons by reminding the possessed of whom they love, creating an emotional force that breaks the grip of the evil spirit.

Even the concept of love is worked into the film's religious ideas, explains Farmiga. The film might be specific about the Catholic ritual of exorcism, but introduces a broad, inclusive concept of God and the opposite, Satan - representing love and the force that opposes it respectively.

In the Conjuring stories, Ed and Lorraine consult clerics from a mix of religious faiths, including animistic shamans and Jewish rabbis.

"You don't have to be Christian to understand the film. You can change the word Satan for sin, or perversion, pride, injustice or hatred," Farmiga says.

Wilson, 47, speaking at the same interview, uses the example of superhero movies. Anyone can enjoy them "and they don't have to think that superheroes exist".

The American actor notes that the Conjuring films did well in countries with a Christian or Catholic majority.

Horror movies tend to be vague about the religious dimension for the sake of mass appeal, but he says "you can't do a movie about Ed and Lorraine without embracing their religious beliefs".

"That had a profound impact on Catholic audiences because we were not running from the religion."

In the Conjuring stories, Ed and Lorraine consult clerics from a mix of religious faiths. PHOTO: WARNER BROS

The movies are based on the cases of the late Warren couple, New England-based demonologists with casebooks going back decades.

Wilson says the selection of which cases to turn into movies hinges on the impact they have had on the history of paranormal research.

For example, in The Conjuring 2, the Warrens gained international recognition when they travelled to Enfield in north London to look into a haunting, he says.

The new movie is based on a case in which demonic possession as a legal defence was introduced into the American courts for the first time, a move that gives the film its title.

The Warrens' published works contain plenty of precedent-setting material for movies, Wilson says. "They published a lot of books and there are still many, many stories out there."

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It opens in cinemas on Friday ( June 11).