“The Conjuring” Summons the Scares!
Terror from Beyond the Daves is pleased to welcome guest writer, Elizabeth Ocon!
If a spirit asked you to give it permission to inhabit a creepy old doll of yours, would you say yes?
If you heard furiously loud pounding on your front door in the middle of the night after getting rid of that creepy old possessed doll, would you get up and open the door without checking the peephole?
The new James Wan film The Conjuring doesn’t waste any time getting to the scary stuff. The opening shot of a doll’s eye leads us into the history of a haunted doll called Annabelle that will appear to great effect later in the film. It also introduces the secondary main characters, Ed and Lorraine Warren (played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga). This isn’t your typical haunted house story; it focuses on the investigators as well as the victims of the haunting.
It’s 1971, and the Perron family moves into an isolated Rhode Island farm house. Dad Roger (Ron Livingston) is a truck driver, and mom Carolyn (Lili Taylor) is a stay at home mom. There are 5 daughters, ranging from mid-teens to around 5 years old.
The mysterious stuff starts to happen on move in day. The youngest daughter finds an old music box under a dead tree, and the family discovers a boarded up basement. They find this basement when the girls play a variant of hide and seek that involves clapping. This clapping game leads to some of the scariest moments of the film later on, so pay attention to how it works.
The movie plays it straight with the haunting. The family experiences cold spots, stopped clocks, items moving on their own, animals behaving strangely, shadowy figures appearing – the classics.
When the ghostly encounters start getting more physical Carolyn begs the Warrens to help the family. The experiences escalate and even encompass the Warren’s daughter who isn’t anywhere near the haunted house.
The Conjuring proves there still is a place for a traditional ghost story. The scares weren’t just the typical “startle moments” as I call them – there were some truly terrifying scenes. One of the most memorable to me is when one of the daughters was being jerked around in her bed by the ghost, and then appeared to see a figure behind her bedroom door. Her sister in the bed next to her couldn’t see it. It really hit a primal fear. Our homes are supposed to be our safe haven – yet how can you sleep if you see something behind a door?
The soundtrack of the movie was subtle and effective. During most of the scary scenes there was no music at all, which heightened the impact of each event. I knew it was working effectively when the sound of a hand clap chilled me to the bone!
This movie is based on a “true story”. I did some reading on the Perrons and Warrens after seeing the film. I didn’t actually know the haunted family was named Perron until doing so, as I’m not sure they used their last name in the movie itself. I think the changes made from the real life facts made the movie better – for example, the Perrons lived in the farm house and experienced hauntings for 10 years before doing anything about them.
The Warrens were the investigators in the Amityville Horror story and the Smurl family haunting (I saw the TV movie The Haunted starring Sally Kirkland years ago). Their room of occult objects that is pivotal in The Conjuring is actually a museum that the public can visit.
An interesting fact about the Annabelle story that opens the film – the real Annabelle is a Raggedy Ann doll. No doubt licensing was the reason for the change. After seeing how the old fashioned Victorian style porcelain doll was used – would it have been even scarier with an innocent looking Raggedy Ann?
I saw this movie in a theater full of teenagers. I was worried that there would be a lot of sarcastic yelling at the screen, but I was pleasantly surprised. The reaction in the audience to the scares felt organic – screams and nervous chatter after each significant event, and excited murmuring when the characters were walking into scary situations. There was real buy-in to what was happening on the screen.
The Conjuring is an excellent, old-school ghost story that will have you checking behind your doors and under your bed before turning off the lights.