Real-life spook story leaves you with lingering heebie-jeebies
Starring Lily Taylor, Patrick Wilson & Vera Farmiga
Directed by James Wan
PG-13, 112 min.
Released July 19, 2013
“God, we’re in the middle of nowhere,” moans teenager Andrea Perron as she and her family move into their new home, a 1700s farmhouse, in remote, upstate Rhode Island.
But it’s not so “nowhere” that Andrea, her four younger sisters and her parents are alone there—by any stretch.
The Conjuring, director James Wan’s new skin-crawlingly good fright flick about a normal family’s harrowing encounters with the paranormal, is based on incidents that reportedly happened in the early 1970s. It’s also about the real-life husband-and-wife team of New England “demonologists,” Ed and Lorraine Warren, who were brought in to de-haunt the seriously spook-infested property.
As the movie opens, we meet the Warrens (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga), whose expertise in the paranormal make them popular speakers on the local college circuit, conductors of séances, and subjects of occasional newspaper stories. They also make haunted-house calls and keep a relic room of “possessed” objects they’ve removed from malevolent situations. (In real life, Ed and Lorraine were called in to investigate the home that became the basis for The Amityville Horror.)
By the time mom Carolyn Perron (Lily Taylor) seeks out the Warrens after a series of increasingly unnerving episodes in her new home, the film is ramped up into full-blown yikes-fest mode. Hang on.
Now, this kind of thing is nothing new, certainly not if you’ve seen any movie that ever tried to spook you with creaky doors, a ball that rolls across the floor by itself, or things that go bump and thump in the night. And TV is crawling with modern-day Warrens, ghost-busters and haunted-house investigators who go into all sorts of spooky places just begging for a brush with the boogyman. But trust me when I tell you—and even warn you—that “The Conjuring” stirs up some seriously scary, supremely creep-ifying mojo.
Director James Wan also launched the Saw franchise, the hugely popular series of gruesome horror films known for depictions of people doing all sorts of awful things to themselves to avoid even more awful things happening to them. Thankfully, The Conjuring has none of those bloody, barbaric hallmarks, and instead focuses all its attention on a bounty of solid, stylish, old-school jolts. You don’t realize how terrifying a pair of clapping hands can be until you feel your own skin getting goose bumps when they appear.
Rated R not because of language or violence or gore, but simply because it’s just too intensely, profoundly scary for kids, The Conjuring is not the kind of movie to take lightly. Part of what makes it so downright terrifying is knowing that it really happened—perhaps. The dark, troubling shadows of this story linger after the lights in the theater come back on.
At one point, the Perrons ask Ed Warren if they can’t just move and leave their house of horrors behind. No, he tells them. “Sometimes when you get haunted, it’s like stepping in gum—you take it with you.”
You, too, may find it hard to shake off the heebee-jeebies of The Conjuring when it’s over. There’s something about this movie that you’ll swear is following you home. You’ve been warned.
—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine