Finding faith-professing screenwriters in Hollywood is tantamount to discovering a four-leaf clover. Locate a pair of the same God-fearing ilk who write horror and happen to be twin brothers, and you’ve wandered into unicorn territory. But take our word for it, they do exist. And chances are you’ve seen their work…and likely gotten your pants scared off in the process
Meet Chad and Carey Hayes, the writers for big-screen features like San Andreas and The Reaping. They’re just two nice, clean cut Christian boys who’ve been in the motion picture business for years. But they found their biggest success scripting a smart little piece of horror from New Line Cinema called The Conjuring that would go on to become one of the most successful fright films of all time.
Released in 2013, The Conjuring quickly took the world by storm, shattering records and proving that intelligent, gore-less horror could still bring the goods. It starred Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as real-life demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren, the couple famous for the paranormal investigation of the dreaded Amityville Horror home. The Conjuring chronicled the events of one of the Warrens’ most infamous cases and left audiences white knuckling their seats and begging for more.
Good news: the Hayes brothers are at it again, reuniting with director James Wan for The Conjuring 2, another peek inside the Warrens’ weird world and the most well-documented case of paranormal activity in history. And if early reviews are any indication, the twins may have pulled off a feat as unique as themselves: they may have actually written a sequel every bit as scary as the original.
Chad and Carey recently sat down with ScreamFish to talk about the new film, the importance of pre-Vatican II Latin and the joys of swapping out scripting duties with a writer that you’ve known, literally, all your life.
You guys have a very diverse portfolio from both TV and movies; what attracted you to horror and to these stories about the Warrens in particular?
Carey: “It’s like riding a roller coaster. It’s really fun to see somebody react when you want them to be scared or feel relieved when you want them to feel that way. Horror provides that opportunity.”
Chad: “In any good film, it’s good versus evil. What attracted us to Ed and Lorraine (Warren) was that we found it so interesting to go back to a period where there were no infrared cameras, there were no things to detect other movement; basically their only tool was their faith. By going back to this period when paranormal wasn’t ‘normal,’ we got to explore the journey that these people go on and what happens when the Warrens step into act three of people’s lives when they’re so scared and terrified that they don’t know where else to turn. We found that very compelling. And another thing that drew us to them was that it offered up a franchise—which is obviously what we’re doing with the second film and hopefully there’s a third and a fourth. But it gives us the opportunity to continually build on these characters. And Patrick (Wilson) and Vera (Farmiga) are just such good actors that it’s fun to write challenging things for them because we know that they can absolutely pull it off.”
Carey: “We get offered a lot of different projects where a U-Haul backs up to a house and it’s haunted and you watch this family go through this ordeal, but it’s fun telling the story of what rocks Ed and Lorraine’s world.”
Chad: “And we try to do true stories that people can research after they’ve gone to our movies. One of the fun things in doing The Conjuring 2, in doing our research, is that the two first professional people to witness the supernatural occurrences happening in that house were cops that were called to the scene. You can read their police report online. It’s amazing. But as for the genre, scaring is really fun. People come up to us and ask, ‘gee, you’re such nice Christian boys; how do you come up with this stuff?’ And I’m like, ‘I have no idea, but we downloaded it somehow.’”
Speaking of your faith, how does that interplay with your writing process?
Chad: “We attempt to stay as truthful to the Scripture as we can when we use it. A lot of this is our own belief, that you have the power and the authority within yourself. We really reference Ephesians a lot, for struggling against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6: 12-18, the oft-cited ‘full-armor of God’ passage). Thematically, if you believe in that and you rise up and you use it and fight to conquer that evil, it parlays into what our own belief system is: we’re protected and we don’t have fear of this kind of stuff.”
Carey: “After Conjuring 1, a priest came up and said, ‘I just want to thank you; that was a very entertaining movie and man you guys got it right and the exorcist (portrayed in the film) was so right. I just wanted to ask you, why did you use pre-Vatican II Latin?’ And we explained that Ed Warren was an altar boy and that’s what they spoke when he was there. He said that was really cool that we did that. So we try to keep it as truthful to the times of the person as we can and yes, that sometimes involves a lot of research. But when you write, you want to get it right.”
What was your reaction to the way the first film was received?
Chad: “It was fantastic; to cross over from secular to non-secular and to have the world embracing it on so many different levels—it meant that we wrote something that people could relate to and because of that, either on an entertainment level or a spiritual level or even both, we were just giddy from it. It was unbelievable to have that kind of opening weekend and then to just have it keep doing it and moving from country to country with the audiences continuing to grow—as writers, it made us incredibly thrilled. I would hope everyone in their life on whatever level it is, whatever it is that you do, could feel that kind of euphoria from working really hard and getting rewarded for it.”
What do you hope people take away from the sequel?
Carey: “I hope that those that don’t resonate in the Faith have more; that those who are maybe having a rocky marriage will rise above it and get through it (referencing the conflict portrayed between Ed and Lorraine); that those who are having family issues will take a little more time trying to resolve those.”
Chad: “For non-Believers to realize that the Devil is out there and for Believers to realize that the more they do nothing about it, the stronger the Devil becomes. I would hope that this would resonate in people to open up conversations. From the first Conjuring, we were approached by a number of youth pastors and priests and particularly two pastors who started Conjuring Friday night movies where they would do open forum discussions and talk about specific scenes. That was very powerful for us. I would hope that sort of thing would come out of it if you’re a Believer. And if perhaps that if you were on the fence, that you’d question it.”
Carey: “We had dinner with Rick Warren and he’s had so many weird things happen to him on his journey, so we had kind of a common denominator to talk about. He was happy how the reflection of faith was portrayed in that movie and it wasn’t preached.”
Chad: “Yeah, it was a lifestyle; it wasn’t being spoken to.”
How does the fact that you’re twins play into your process as writers?
Chad: “We’ve been writing together since we were 16. We wrote our first movie in high school just because we loved films. It’s an odd partnership because you write with no ego involved. You’re not worried so much about personalities. One of us will write Act 1, the other will write Act 2 and then we’ll flip-flop them and we each re-write each other, so it’s kind of that kind of process. People are actually very baffled at how it works so well for us. We don’t know any other way, so it’s hard to compare other than what people have said to us.”
Carey: “Yeah, it’s not broken so we’re not going to try to fix anything.”
The Conjuring 2 stars Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga. It opens nationwide on June 10.