The Conjuring is based on a “true” story about real-life couple Ed and Elaine Warren. They were the folks who were involved in the Amityville case which was later turned into the film “The Amityville Horror.” The Warrens called themselves “demonologists” and approached their work from what they considered to be a scientific standpoint. It’s important to note, though, that they did not employ traditional scientific methods during the course of their research and were reported to be very resistant to letting other, actual scientists review their evidence. This eventually led to many folks disbelieving their incredible findings and opinions, which included: demonic possession of people and objects, haunted houses, and the anthromorphization of demons, who the Warrens claimed exhibited complex behaviors like “taunting the trinity by knocking three times,” and other well-thought-out inhuman hijinks. That all being said, whether you find the Warrens’ assertions laughably ridiculous or frighteningly accurate, you may not be able to sleep after seeing this movie. The Conjuring terrifies believers and skeptics alike.
The film is set in the 1960’s and early 1970’s. If you’re a purist in terms of history, you might find your mind wandering to the feeble attempts to make the actors look era-authentic. The efforts were a bit lazy in this regard, with some shots looking almost completely modern. Setting that detail aside, though, the acting is superb. Lili Taylor, specifically, was fantastic. She was totally believable even in the most ridiculous scenarios, and her growing terror jumped off the screen without ever being campy or over the top. Taylor is a horror film veteran, having already appeared in The Haunting back in the late 90’s. Her performance here elevated the film out of complete silliness and gave it some backbone it would not have had otherwise. The rest of the cast was formidable as well and only once or twice did the audience devolve into uncontrolled giggling at the actors’ reactions, which is quite a feat for a horror film.
The plot is traditional haunted-house fare; a nice family moves into a huge creepy old house, they begin to hear weird noises, the clock stops at odd hours and they wake up from sleep feeling that someone is pulling on their feet. You can almost guess what happens next: strange apparitions begin to appear, marks or bruises form on the character’s bodies, and things deteriorate from there. Then, of course, the ghost fighters are called in to help. What follows is pretty predictable. In fact, you could probably fill in the rest of the story with your eyes closed. This particular effort focuses on the supposed real-life case of the Perron family, who claimed to have been tormented by demonic spirits.
There was much giggling and chortling during the film, and it was difficult to decide if it was intentional on the part of the filmmakers to amuse the audience or not. There was a vibe in the theater of “Ooooooh girl, that’s a BAD idea! No! Don’t do that!” In fact, some people were shouting those very words at the screen at certain times, sending the rest of the audience into peals of raucous laughter. This actually added to the fun rather than detracting from the experience.
The real success of the film, though, may happen after you leave the theater. You might laugh through the whole thing, only to find yourself replaying the scariest scenes as you’re resting your head, late at night, when the house is very quiet. You might keep opening your eyes, expecting to see… something staring right back at you.
You may even be the world’s biggest skeptic and still feel just a little anxious when you’re all alone in the house as you remember those demons psychologically torturing the characters. A director who can do that is a good director. The Conjuring will terrify believers and skeptics alike, and even if it doesn’t, it’s a hell of a lot of fun (pun intended.)
By: Rebecca Savastio