SAN FRANCISCO—It’s been 14 years since Lili Taylor last did a haunted-house movie. That was 1999’s The Haunting, and, by all accounts, it didn’t go too well. The remake of the classic 1963 film had Taylor starring with more established actors such as Liam Neeson, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Owen Wilson, but it was panned by critics and barely made its cash back at the box office. How bad was it? Taylor and Zeta-Jones were nominated for a Razzie award in the category of worst screen couple.
After that, Taylor eschewed the horror genre for a while, starring in films like High Fidelity and Public Enemies. Now, however, she’s back with The Conjuring (opening July 19), directed by James Wan (Saw, Insidious). It’s about a duo of real-life paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga), who come across one of the strangest cases they’ve ever seen when Carolyn and Roger Perron (Taylor and Ron Livingston) and their five young daughters move into a possessed house.
Taylor wasn’t nervous about jumping back into a horror movie, even one about a haunted house. “I was psyched because I’d seen Insidious and I love when horror films are done well,” she tells the Georgia Straight in a San Francisco hotel room. “I love them. I don’t like all of the stuff in the genre, but I like classic stuff.
“Jan [de Bont, director of The Haunting] didn’t follow through on his hopes, and that’s where I really take my hat off to James [Wan], because it is hard to trust yourself in a scary movie when you’re going with not showing everything,” Taylor continues, referring to the film’s reliance on atmosphere over carnage. “Especially when there’s money on the table, and what happened with Jan was people started breathing down his neck and saying, ‘We need to see something.’ ”
Where Taylor really feels that The Conjuring differs from other horror films is in its emotional heart and the fact that it’s allegedly based on a true story, two elements that go hand in hand. “It has practical effects and no CGI and has all this empathy, depth, complex characters, and relationships,” she says. “You care about the characters.”
Taylor adds that although she’s still unsure about the existence of paranormal beings, working on the film has also made it a little more difficult to deny. “In my mind, the denials [of the supernatural] just have more cracks in them. Which is tough if there’s something that’s really difficult, like hurting a child. You think, ‘Oh, it’s okay; it didn’t really happen,’ but, no: yes, it did. So that’s tough, but, for us, we just believed it. Whether it’s true or not, we believed it.”
Meanwhile, asked about her favourite scary movie of all time, Taylor doesn’t hesitate: “The Exorcist,” she says. “But I feel like this is a close second, maybe even… Maybe even…”