Saturday, July 26, 2014

Conjuring up a scary movie night

After reading an endless amount of positive reviews, I have finally watched The Conjuring!  This in is thanks to Melody who kindly sent me a copy of the movie. I can't believe it took me this long to watch The Conjuring because ghost movies are my favorite kind of horror movie, and I've followed the story of Ed and Lorraine Warren for years. 
The real Ed and Lorraine Warren
For those who aren't familiar with the Warrens, they were a couple who actively investigated many haunted places and possessed people. I believe I read that they had over 10,000 investigations. Ed was a demonologist and Lorraine was/is a psychic medium. After hearing Lorraine interviewed on several podcasts, it was cool to see her portrayed in movie form. I have absolutely no complaints about the actress (Vera Farmiga) who played Lorraine. In my opinion, she looked and sounded really similar to the real deal. She also radiated the kindness that came through in Lorraine's interviews. I can't speak as much for the actor who played Ed, because I've heard more of Lorraine's voice. I can say that he didn't look all that similar to the real Ed. You might recognize that actor (Patrick Wilson) as the same man who played the father in the Insidious movies. I liked him better in this role. He came across as more kind and patient, but then he wasn't possessed in this movie.

I found a really entertaining page of pictures comparing the actors to the real people in the story. Those who have seen The Conjuring are going to be interested in this:

Reel vs. Real Faces of The Conjuring

There's a lot of interesting trivia under those pictures that's worth reading. There are also photos of the house where this actually happened. The house constructed for the movie seemed to be more the director, James Wan's vision than reality. It had some similarities to the Insidious house. That's one of the things about The Conjuring - if you like James Wan's style, you'll like the movie. You'll also notice a pattern. There is a recognizable flow to the action. He knows how to build tension and you'll notice that you have to wait a while for the action. Not that I'm complaining! I think a lot of nervous tension and quiet moments help to produce bigger scares. In fact, my few complaints about the movie involve the scary spirits/demons when they finally do show up! After writing reviews for Insidious and The Woman in Black, I'm noticing that pattern with myself. I'm spooked by the quiet creaking of doors and hints of shadows in the corner of a room, but I'm not too impressed with some bloody, hollow eyed thing leaping out. There was probably another group of people watching The Conjuring who said "Finally!" when the leaping occurred, but I thought the entities were a little over the top. That and why was the ghost of a woman who died shortly after childbirth portrayed as an elderly hag? I guess some might say that it was a demonic entity that chose to show itself in the creepiest way possible. Or maybe she went really prematurely gray...

Aside from those few complaints, I really enjoyed The Conjuring! I'll get into describing the plot in a hopefully non-spoiling way. The movie starts with a snippet of the Annabelle story. Those who know about the Warrens are all too familiar with Annabelle, but for everyone else: Annabelle is a doll. She looked like this in real life:
The Long Strange Career of 'The Conjuring' Demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren
...and like this in the movie:

Scary Annabelle Doll from The Conjuring

You can read more about her here:

About Annabelle

It's an interesting read!

Long story short, Annabelle comes with a few issues. You might think she was possessed, although the Warrens explain that she's more of a conduit for a demon who'd rather possess a human. Annabelle has a small role in the beginning of the movie, which I think was a way of introducing the audience to the Warrens and what they do.

The movie takes turns introducing us to the Warrens and introducing us to the Perrons. The Perrons are a nice family comprised of two parents and five girls. The Perrons move into a new home, knowing nothing about the previous owners or history of the land. The house is of course haunted. The story takes place in the 1970s, and there's a pretty good soundtrack of groovy old 70s songs sprinkled throughout. Someone spent a lot of time collecting 70s decor and clothes for this movie! 
The Conjuring
Like Insidious, the stage is set with us watching a fun, pleasant family go about their daily lives. Little things happen here and there, but the family excuses them away. A door squeaks open? It's an old house. One of the girls bumps her head into a dresser repeatedly in the night? She has a pattern of sleepwalking. Carolyn, the mother in the family wakes up with more and more giant bruises on her body every day? It's an iron deficiency. The list goes on and on. After a point, the events become too much to ignore.
The Conjuring (11-21-13)
I won't give away too many more of these events, because I don't want to spoil the scary bits. The scary bits are for the most part worth waiting for. The timing is perfect. Lets just say that by the time the house has become a chaotic mess of paranormal activity, Carolyn Perron decides to get help. She attends one of Ed and Lorraine Warren's lectures. What's neat is the appearance of the real Lorraine in the audience! I wonder what it was like for Lorraine to watch the actress who was portraying her up on that stage. After the lecture, Carolyn explains to the Warrens that her house is violently haunted. They eventually agree to come over and take a look.

LAFF 2013: The Conjuring (****)

Through Lorraine's psychic abilities and a lot of research, the Warrens deduce what has infested the house. After reading the real history of the place, I was surprised to learn that they actually went light on the ghosts in this movie! Although, if every ghost/event was mentioned this movie would have probably gotten confusing and long winded. Without giving away too many details, I'll just say that a lot is explained, there is a possession, and all hell breaks loose. I've seen a handful of exorcism movies, and this exorcism was handled quite differently. I liked how it was directed. Man, is it scary.
The Conjuring Conjures Up Big Numbers: Weekend Box Office Report
I thought The Conjuring did the Warrens justice. Without being too familiar with the women who grew up in the house, I'm going to guess it did them justice too. I read that all five of them had a part in getting the details right. If you visit the site I linked to earlier, you'll see a photo of every woman who grew up in that house sitting with the girl who played them in the movie. It's fascinating. I wonder if the sisters felt tense watching the movie or if it was healing in some way to get their experiences out there. I can't imagine going through that family's experience.

movie animated GIF

This movie could be good start to a long discussion. It makes you think about what causes these events. Is it a negative spirit? A haunting? Residual activity from terrible events in the past? A demon? The movie makes you consider the power of faith on negative forces. Ed Warren is forced by the desperate circumstances to perform an exorcism rite, despite not having done so before. He is familiar with the process, but he is not a priest. He does however have a strong faith in God and positive energy. An interesting piece of trivia is that Ed Warren went on to become the only non-clerical demonologist recognized by The Vatican.
In the trailer for Warner Bros. new film "The Conjuring," Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga play real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, who find themselves in the midst of their most terrifying case yet.
Thinking about Ed Warren's exorcism moment in the movie raised another question for me - Could someone who is familiar with, but not formally trained in, performing exorcisms be capable of cleansing a person/place/object? Or taking it a step further, could someone who is incredibly positive but not part of an organized religion successfully exorcise a negative entity/demon? It's food for thought. I'm asking you to consider the possibility of demons and possessions to answer these questions. I've seen some video of and heard some stories about people who were so physically out of control and speaking in languages they never knew, that I had to at least consider that possession exists. I find exorcism stories interesting, and the more of them I hear the more possible possession sounds. At least, I can't think of any better explanation for these events and behavior!
vera farmiga the conjuring
By the way, in The Conjuring the Warrens keep a souvenir from the house and add it to the occult museum they keep in their house. Annabelle the doll lives in a locked case in the museum too. The occult museum really does exist. Here the real Lorraine gives a tour of it: