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Why 'The Conjuring' Could Be James Wan's Scariest Movie Yet

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Oct 15, 2012 | 10:04am EDT

Patrick WilsonDirector James Wan is synonymous with blood-curdling horror, thanks to his work on the first Saw movie. His creepy vision introduced us to the world of Jigsaw, a serial killer so terrifying, audiences can't stop coming back to him. Then, he terrified us even further when he played guide to a story about a young, comatose boy whose family was trying to prevent evil spirits from taking him. Now, he's on the trail of two famous ghost hunters. It's a tale steeped in elements of reality we haven't seen in his other films, yet it's the one that had the potential to scare us the most.

At his New York Comic Con panel for The Conjuring the somewhat true story of famed ghost hunters, Ed and Lorraine Warren, Wan was joined by leads Patrick Wilson (Ed Warren), Ron Livingston, and Lili Taylor (Livingston and Taylor play a haunted husband and wife), and they all proceeded to terrify Con-goers with the never-before seen trailer and a clip that was both hilarious and panic-inducing.

Step one was to express how real these ghosts are to the subjects of the film, the real-life Warrens. Wilson spoke about visiting the couple along with his co-star Vera Farmiga (who plays Lorraine Warren), who keep a room of haunted artifacts they swear are capable of bringing destruction. "We love [ghost stories] and yet we're always trying to debunk it... So it's a tough thing when they believe it so strongly," says Wilson of the Warrens. He adds an anecdote about touching "the Annabell doll" and how both Ed and Lorraine swore it would bring harm, and even cited an incident in which a man touched the doll, and when he was leaving, crashed his motorcycle and died. While it's easy to write all the ghosty nonsense off, all it takes is a small detail like that to give the film enough credibility to do some serious scaring. And between that story and the fervent beliefs of two very real people, Wan may just be onto something.

Plus, it scares him. A lot. And if he's to be believed, that's a sign he's onto something good. Wan says the way he chooses to do films is by picking things that terrify him. "I'm a chicken s**t, that's how I can make these films," he says. "That's kind of like my therapy."

It shows. In the lengthy clip Con-goers saw from the film, it's the simple things that can be most terrifying.

In the full-length scene, we find Taylor's character playing hide and seek with her daughter, a game in which the daughter hints at her location with a simple "clap, clap." But when Taylor follows the clapping to an empty wardrobe (the one we saw the witch-ghost jumping off of in the trailer) as her daughter walks up behind her, confused as to why her mother would be looking in there, it's clear the ghost games have begun. Taylor still hears the claps later that night, and as she follows them, jarring phenomena continue to startle her. All the family photos along the stairs come crashing down as if someone is walking along the wall and thrashing them, one by one. Then, as she wanders through the house, turning lights on as the claps lead her toward the desolate basement, the sense of terror is at an all time high. Then she actually looks down into that basement chasm, and braving the cloudy darkness, reaches for the light switch, breathing a sigh of relief when nothing appeared. That is, until the light bulb shatters and goes out. Alone in the dark, Taylor lights a match, and for a moment, it seems she was imagining it all. Until, in a flash, and right next to her face filled with terror, come two, grimy, ghostly hands. Clap-clap.

To be perfectly honest, I just got scared writing that description. And that's because sometimes, the stories that are the most terrifying are the ones that prey on your simplest, most common fears. We've all gone creeping through our homes, seeking the source of a strange noise, and the longer we go without an answer, the more we imagine the sound is coming from something horrible. In minutes, it can go from a raccoon snooping in the trash, to a burglar, to an ax-murderer, to a blood-thirsty ghost. And in this case, all that ghost did was have a little fun, and yet, that scene is mind-bendingly terrifying.

Wan may be onto something here.

[Photo Credit: WENN]

Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler

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