This week in my movie class, we saw the horror flick “The Conjuring”, starring Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson.
When a family is haunted by ghosts in their new farmhouse, they call in experts to help them – but once it becomes clear that the ghosts want the entire family dead, can the entire family be saved?
In autumn of 1971, The Perron Family moved into their newly-purchased farmhouse in a remote area of Rhode Island. Shortly after their arrival, however, they started to notice certain oddities: their pet dog refused to enter the house, all of the clocks stopped at 3:07 AM and an unusual rotting aroma permeated various rooms. After finding their dog mysteriously dead, things soon get worse when Carolyn (Lily Taylor), the mother of this five-daughter brood, starts developing bruises throughout her body. Between hearing weird noises and seeing inexplicable visions, they are convinced that their house is haunted and they need help. But to whom can they turn?
The Warrens are a couple of some notoriety as paranormal investigators. Husband Ed (Wilson) is a demonologist and wife Lorraine (Farmiga) a clairvoyant. Together, they have spent years looking into sundry claims of possessions and hauntings; in most instances, they have been able to prove that these events are simple coincidences with rational, reasonable causes behind them. Other times, however, they have been forced to put their lives at great risk in order to either rid a home of spirits or drive out a demon from some human form it has temporarily overtaken.
After attending The Warrens’ speaking engagement at a nearby university, Carolyn meets with them to share her tale and implore them to assist with her family’s situation. Following a cursory inspection of the premises, The Warrens find considerable evidence that Carolyn’s story is neither a hoax nor a coincidence, but in fact a genuine haunting, possibly with an attempted demonic possession. They immediately get to work to record and document the existence of the spirits, but when they discover that a demon wishes to possess Carolyn so she will murder her daughters, can they get Vatican approval for a priest to perform an Exorcism on her before it’s too late?
I’m tempted to say that the recipe for “The Conjuring” would be to add one part of “Amityville Horror” to one part of “The Exorcist”, run it on high in a blender, then pour generous servings of this concoction over ice and serve. While I suppose such a remark might be a facile description with which to characterize this rather well-made movie, that certainly doesn’t make it any less apt. For people who are fans of this genre (not I), this cocktail of spooks and devils will be sure to hit the spot – especially now, since there tends to be something of a dearth of horror films during the summer months.
One of the reservations I have about “The Conjuring” is the fact that the filmmakers try to cram in too much within this nearly two hour long movie. Besides the story lines of The Perrons and The Warrens, there are also way too many ghosts inhabiting the story – and they all have their own story line, too. This makes things a little confusing and hard to follow at times. It may have been better to focus on one or two of these supernatural beings than to overcomplicate the story to the point that we wind up forgetting who’s doing what and why. Given the fact that “The Conjuring” is supposedly based on actual people, they may have fallen into the trap of trying to stick a little too closely to actual incidents to the point that the film’s quality is compromised.
Director James Wan – perhaps best known for “Saw” – manages to hit all of the right notes throughout “The Conjuring” that should make horror fans jump and squeal in their seat and generate the kind of physiological reaction in their system to which they seem to have become addicted. For me, arguably the scariest part of this movie isn’t the ghosts or the demons, but rather the emphasis of how religion – specifically, Catholicism – is seen as the cure-all. Seriously, would it be possible for an atheist to either be haunted by ghosts, possessed by demons or work as a paranormal investigator? Perhaps – but then you’d really be called upon to suspend your disbelief even more so.