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Sunday, July 21, 2013

Sean Kelly

My Thoughts on The Conjuring

TheConjuring

Director James Wan (Saw, Insidious) returns with this new haunted house thriller, which is supposedly based on a real case by infamous paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren.  In the film, Carolyn Perron (Lili Taylor), her husband Roger (Ron Livingston), and five daughters move into a farmhouse in Harrisville, Rhode Island in 1971.  Beginning nearly immediately after moving in, the Perron family begin experiencing an escalating series of paranormal events.  Eventually, the hauntings get so bad that Carolyn seeks out the help of Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga), who arrive at the house to investigate.  In addition, Ed Warren is being increasingly concerned with the toll that ghost hunting has on his clairvoyant wife Lorraine and is worried that the case of the Perrons might just be the one that brings her over the edge.

The “based on a true story” tag is something that has become overused in horror film marketing, whether or not the film is truly based on an actual event.  The Conjuring has some credence to using this tag, since Ed and Lorraine Warren were very much real paranormal investigators and demonologists, who were primarily active during the 1970s and 1980s.  They are most infamous for being involved with the investigation of the haunting at 112 Ocean Ave in Amityville NY, which of course became the basis for The Amityville Horror.  Over the years, I’ve seen the Warrens name pop up in a number of the “true” haunting stories I’ve read.

The prelude of The Conjuring focuses on a case the Warrens investigated in 1970, which involved a possessed doll named Annabelle.  The scene sets things up nicely, while also showcasing James Wan’s overstylzed nature, with the doll looking like something from, Wan’s earlier film, Dead Silence, as opposed to the simple Raggedy Anne doll from the actual case.  The Perron case at the centre of the film is supposed to be a case that has remained secret until now.  I don’t know if this is actually true, however the film does make sure to emphasize that the Perrons were indeed a real family by showing their photos (along with that of the Warrens) during the closing credits.

With the exception of the Annabelle prologue, much of the first act of The Conjuring doesn’t focus much at all on the Warrens and instead makes the Perron family front-and-centre.  It is only when it becomes obvious that the house is haunted that the Warrens are brought it.  I kind of like how the Warrens are portrayed in a somewhat objective light.  The couple is portrayed as being highly self-aware of the fact that most people do not believe in ghost and demons.  In addition, there is one scene in the film that emphasises that most of the “haunted houses” that the Warrens investigated ended up having some sort of a rational explanation.  The film does not ask you to believe the events that happened to the Perron family are true, however it is something that is fun to think about.

I guess I should talk about how The Conjuring works as a horror film.  I should start by saying that I thought that James Wan’s previous film Insidious was a quite original and often times scary haunted house film, which has quite a lot of fun with the concept of paranormal investigations.  On the flipside, I thought that The Conjuring was not as scary or original as Insidious, but I still enjoyed the film.  There is one scene in particular, which showed a paranormal investigation from the point of view of a 16mm camera, which was one of my favourite moments of the film.  Shame there were not more scenes like it in the film.

The Conjuring made some headlines in the weeks leading up to the release when it was reported that the MPAA gave the film, which was obviously aiming towards a PG-13, an R rating for “being too scary.”  In truth, I would hypothesize that the R rating was given solely for the film’s climax, which gets quite intense and even features some blood and gore.  That said, I would still say that the film straddles the fine line between PG-13 and R and much of the film would probably fit within the former rating.

As someone quite interested in paranormal investigations, I’m quite amazed that there haven’t been more films about Ed and Lorraine Warren.  There’s The Amityville Horror of course (which is briefly alluded to in The Conjuring) and there was also a 1991 TV move called The Haunted, which focused on the 1974 case of the Smurl family.  There will always be both believers and skeptics when it comes to true stories of the paranormal.  However, no matter which side you’re on, I still thought that The Conjuring ended up being a fun little thrill ride.

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Sean Kelly

About Sean Kelly -

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described ├╝ber-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).