By Steve D. Stones
If you’re familiar with classic haunted house movies such as The Haunting, Burnt Offerings, Poltergeist and The Amityville Horror – The Conjuring may not have anything new to offer. However, director James Wan manages to create a retro 1970s atmosphere without trying to rehash too much of these old classics. There are enough scares in this film to fill an entire mansion.
World renowned paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, are contacted by Carolyn Perron, played by Lili Taylor, to investigate her farmhouse in Harrisville, Road Island. The farmhouse was once the scene of an accused witch named Bathsheba who hanged herself from a tree in the 1863 after having sacrificed her week old child to the devil. Her spirit possesses Perron to try and murder her children.
The first sign that something is wrong with the house comes when the clocks in the house have stopped at 3:07 am - the time the mother hanged herself. The family dog Sadie is also found dead outside the house. Perron finds bruises on her body, and her children smell a foul odor in their rooms while being touched by something in their beds at night.
The Warrens keep items in their home that come from possessed places they have investigated. The items are blessed by a priest to keep them from becoming active again.
While doing research on the Harrisville farmhouse, the Warrens discover that the property was once over 200 acres and later subdivided and sold. A number of murders and suicides have occurred in homes built on the divided properties.
Ed Warren suggests to the Perron family that the house should have a cleansing - an exorcism. The Catholic Church has to first grant permission to Warren for an exorcism after evidence of a possession is presented. A priest and friend of the Warren’s, father Gordon, tries to push through the request to have the house exorcised.
The Perron family leaves the house to stay in a motel. Carolyn kidnaps two of her children to take them back to the house for a sacrifice. Carolyn’s transformation into a possessed witch is not nearly as effective as Linda Blair’s in The Exorcist, but it still manages to scare the viewer intensely.
Ed Warren performs an exorcism in front of Carolyn as thousands of birds hit the house – a scene straight out of Hitchcock’s The Birds. Carolyn returns to normal.
Many sequences in The Conjuring have a documentary feel to them, as if they are really happening at the moment. The film manages to scare without any use of extreme violence and gore. The most effective scare is when Loraine sees an illusion of her daughter Judy moving in the water near where Bathsheba hung herself.
The Conjuring cost only 20 million to produce, and has gone on to gross 318 million worldwide – making it one of the highest grossing horror films of all time. The film is based on a “true story.”
The only “true” aspect of the film may be the characters. They are all based on real life people. The end sequence shows actual photographs of the Perron family and Ed and Lorraine Warren.
For genuine scares and thrills, see The Conjuring. Happy viewing!