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Straight Up Scary! No Need For The Usual Trapings...The Conjuring Stands Out All By Itself
on September 26, 2014
Well, here we are, digging into a haunted house story with roots tied to Amittyville. Those roots are Ed and Lorraine Warren. Parapsychologists? Ghost hunters? Demonoligists? Kooks? Pick your label. I'm going to stay away from doing so because I think they're all of those and more. Leading lives as people who seek out strange phenomena and try to deal with the darker sides of reality, you might think that they are insane, and you would probably be right. Some of the cases that they have reported on and been involved with would make even the heartiest of skeptics think twice. So here we have The Conjuring. Before Amittyville, which is probably the Warrens' most famous case, we had a big, scary farmhouse in Harrisville, Rhode Island. The year is 1971. And the Perron family has just moved in.
The film actually starts with the story of Anabelle, a hugely scary-looking possessed doll (movie coming soon) that runs amok on a couple of college girls, ransacking their apartment and writing notes and being super-creepy. In steps the Warrens and they put an end to Anabelle's reign of terror, taking the doll with them and stashing it in their personal depository of cursed things in a locked room in their own home. Here is where you need to drop the whole "Based On A True Story" nonsense right off the bat. If Hollywood has gotten its hooks in it, it's not very TRUE at all. Sure, there are certain aspects of the film that are based on actual accounts, but in this case, take for instance Anabelle. In the movie the doll is three feet tall and literally scary as f*ck. I mean, when you see it, your first reaction is "Who in the hell would own that doll, let alone sleep with it in their room?" It is one step away from the creepy clown doll in Poltergeist. Same deal. Anabelle (the real Anabelle, and yes, she's real) is actually a Raggedy Ann doll. And she has done some seriously creepy things (if you care to research). She is locked up in a cabinet at the New England Society For Psychic Research. But she bears no resemblance to the doll in the movie nor do they tell you what she did after leaving the college girls' home. So, like I said, keep that "Based On A True Story" stuff out of the equation and realize that this is just a really scary movie. Enter the Perron family. Mom (Lili Taylor). Dad (Ron Livingston). Five daughters. The move into the dilapidated farmhouse and everything is going great except the family dog absolutely refuses to enter the house and one of their daughters finds a boarded up entrance to a cellar filled with all kinds of stuff from a rotting piano to various other furnishings. The next day they their dog, Sadie, is discovered dead in the yard by their youngest daughter April, who also finds a mysterious and creepy antique music box. Let the serious haunting begin. At first its subtle. A slammed door. Weird sensations. Two of their daughters are accosted by some dark figure in the bedroom. The ghosties go full out when husband Roger is away in Florida. Enter Ed and Lorraine Warren. Their house isn't haunted. It's infested with a demonic force that is surrounding the family. Leaving is not an option. The force will just follow them. Researching the property, Ed and Lorraine discover that it has a case of the nasties spanning all the way back to the spooky days when the original 200 acre property was owned by an accused witch, Bathsheba, who tried to sacrifice her week-old child to the devil and killed herself in 1863, cursing anyone who would try and take possession of her land. Since that time the land had been parceled and split and the Warrens discover a plethora of bad things, murders and suicides, have take place in the surrounding properties over the years. Uh. Oh.
The Conjuring is scary. Super scary. From the director of Saw and Insidious, James Wan. Not the pedigree I would have preferred. I can't stand ultra-gore tripe like Saw and Insidious was just decent. Wan outdoes himself here. Forget both of those aforementioned franchises. The Conjuring just might be his masterpiece. There is no real gore here. There is no nudity or sex of any kind. No curse words (of the vulgar variety, to be sure). No ultra-violence. None of the above. This movie is rated R because it is absolutely terrifying. The true story aspect tends to lend to that credibility (but like I said, how much? how far?). The Warrens are real people. The Perrons are real people. Anabelle is a real doll. Whatever else is purely speculative. All I can say is, if even 20 minutes of this movie is true, those people should have gotten a medal. Seriously. With the hooflaw that surrounded The Amittyville Horror after Hollywood got a hold of it, The Conjuring should just remain a scary movie. End of story. The acting is good. The characters are real. You don't find yourself hating them like you do in most scary movies, for making stupid decisions. The Perrons don't play with Ouija boards or mediums or tarot cards. They don't invite this entity into their house. It's already there. And it's been waiting for anyone to come along and play.