"Rated R for sequences of disturbing violence and terror."
That's the decree that came from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) earlier this year for James Wan's hit new horror flick, The Conjuring, a '70s-set, based-on-a-true-story tale about a family besieged by the supernatural in their Rhode Island farmhouse. Though Wan claimed to have shot it with the intention of garnering a more box office-friendly PG-13, the ratings board had other ideas. R ratings can limit the potential audience for a film, so moviemakers often appeal the MPAA's decision or recut their work to try to change the judgment. But Wan and the film's producers saw the harsher rating as an opportunity instead of an obstacle.
Speaking to an audience at the WonderCon in Anaheim in March, The Conjuring's executive producer, Walter Hamada, said that the MPAA told them, "'It's just so scary. [There are] no specific scenes or tone you could take out to get it PG-13.'"
No sex, no nudity, no profanity—just too scary. In one tidy sound bite, Hamada turned The Conjuring into the sort of movie that horror-loving teens essentially have to find a way to see. The film took the top spot at the box office this past weekend, earning an impressive $41.5 million—the best debut for an R-rated horror flick ever. One can only guess how many tickets to Pacific Rim, The Lone Ranger, or World War Z sold this weekend were actually for 16-year-olds sneaking into the screen next door to see just how scary too scary is.