From the very beginning, the filmmakers of The Conjuring want you to understand that what you’re about to watch is based on a true story. Maybe they know that makes this story all the more terrifying. With any movie, we expect some exaggerations and liberties to be taken for dramatic effect, but when deciding how much of this horrific tale is true, I’d be left aghast at any of these creepy occurrences being true. The Conjuring tells the story of a case Ed and Lorraine Warren (portrayed by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) took in the early 1970s. Supposedly, it’s so terrifying that they decided to keep it under wraps, until now.
When the Perron family move into an old farm house, they start noticing some creepy occurrences. As the family happily walks into their new home, the dog refuses to go in. They discover a cellar that’s been boarded up. And soon strange noises happen. The youngest child starts talking to an imaginary friend. Another starts sleepwalking, always bumping into an old wardrobe. Soon, doors start closing, the mother has unexplainable bruises and one daughter sees someone behind her bedroom door. This case has it all and the family call the Warrens for help.
Shit really starts hitting the fan when the Warrens and their crew arrive to investigate. Lorraine, who is a medium, senses a sinister presence has attached itself to this family. She also can sense that horrible events have happened in the home and one presence wants to make history repeat itself. To save this family, there will have to be an exorcism, but the priest is on hold and they’re running out of time.
The whole setting is designed to be so dark and foreboding. That dog had the right idea to not even step foot in that creepy house. The inside feels like a cave; hollow, deep and dark. The walls are a creepy texture of gray with a touch of green for a sickly color. The whole house looks like no happiness could ever occur within those walls. Only fear, pain and tragedy.
This film has all the classic haunted house creeps ticked off and uses them effectively. Plus there are some jump scares, but they’re not the main source of scares. The use of the blindfold-clap game creates amazing suspense. Best of all, there’s enough well crafted, true terror to make this horror fan to look away to avoid nightmares. Like any good horror film should, there are some creepy images that are left burned into your mind after the film: hands reaching out of that wardrobe, a reflection in a music box, blood being vomited over a white sheet during an exorcism. You can’t unsee that.
What I believe makes this film so truly scary is the careful storytelling. We see these events unfold so organically around this family that we can relate to so easily that we cannot help but be pulled in and feel a part of this terror. And when Lorraine explains the history behind these hauntings, the story gets a whole level deeper and thrills viewers even more. By the crazy-intense third act, we are hanging onto our seats and crucifixes for dear life.
I do have one main gripe: movie starts out with story about a creepy possessed doll, Annabelle. While it’s cool and creepy as fuck, that’s not what the story is about, but is used as just a segway to the Warrens. I guess that’s why the film had the working title The Warren Files. It’s interesting and no doubt sets up interest for its own movie, but I wanted the focus on this story, it’s surely so rich and powerful it doesn’t need any fillers. Also, keeping a doll you know is possessed in your home with a kid around is just asking for trouble, even if you’re a demonologist.
Overall, The Conjuring is a truly scary movie and one of the best horror films I’ve ever seen. The dark setting, the uneasy suspense and horrific third act all add up for a terrifying ride. Whether or not you choose to believe, the based on a true story bit can make it even more horrific. I watched this film at home, in the middle of a hot summer day with my newborn son. I’ll admit that at one point I jumped so hard while holding him that he woke up and was not happy with me. And I tried my best not to think about this movie during his late night feedings. Unless you’re really not scared of anything, keep the lights on and don’t do it alone.
“There’s a lady in a dirty nightgown that I see in my dreams. She’s standing in front of my mom’s bed.”