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One of the Better Exorcism/Possession Films Since the Exorcist and Poltergeist
on November 3, 2015
First off, I do not believe there is enough scientific evidence to prove the existence of demons and evil spirits capable of infiltrating homes and bodies to induce the blender to spontaneously make milk shakes or stimulate hall clocks to reset themselves to a particular time. So I view The Conjuring as a great story, inspired by and loosely based upon a real case study of a "haunted house" which Lorraine and Ed Warren investigated and eventually interpreted as demonic possession. (Their other famous case, the so-called Amityville Horror has been under much dispute and scrutiny since their original investigation, which may have been an elaborate hoax.)
Without having done any background research, I hypothesize much of the events as depicted in The Conjuring were exaggerated for dramatic affect. If you can put aside the idea that this is a "true" story, there is much to enjoy for supernatural horror film buffs. Carefully timed scenes make you jump from your chair, similar to "The Shining", which is something I haven't experienced in a horror film of this sort since "The Sixth Sense". Also, the film is not too "bloody" but relies more on its scare tactics.
The story is loosely based upon the real-life investigation by the Warren's of a house owned by an American family, the Perron's, in the early 1970's. The film begins with one of the Warren's other cases, the so-called Annabelle doll case, before cutting to one of their lectures on paranormal investigations at a university. The main story thread focuses on The Perron's, a married couple and their five daughters, who move into a house in the countryside in New England. Almost from the beginning, they experience some strange occurrences in their house. The first tip-off is an incident with their dog, who doesn't wish to enter the house. Then creaking doors, strange knockings, and glimpses of apparitions terrorize the family at night, which also fosters the somnambulism (i.e. sleepwalking) of one of the daughters.
When the house becomes nearly unlivable because of the nightly disruptions, the mother Carolyn Perron (Lilli Taylor in an absolutely convincing performance) tracks down the Warren's. They agree to investigate employing a combination of ESP on the part of Lorraine Warren and technological tools via cameras and tape recorders. As they continue to learn more about not only the recent history of the disturbances, they learn the history of the house which tells many secrets. In particular, two supernatural centers for the unrest are unused basement filled with antique furniture and an old tree near the creek slightly away from the house.
While I don't think the Conjuring should be taken seriously as a true-to-life story, it's a horror-fest roller coaster ride. The directing and camera work create the perfect balance of frights, suspense and horror to keep you watching to the next door creaking, relieved when the "thing" appears then vanishes. The supernatural malevolence is only gradually revealed, as it should be, until the final denouement. As a horror film, it works well and deserves a place alongside some of the other films of its type, such The Exorcist (still the best film in this genre), and Poltergeist. Simultaneously, is this really how the incidents unfolded in real life? I doubt it.