Let me preface this article by stating that it takes an act of God for me to go to the local cinema. Unfortunately, I’m one of those people who sets the bar high when it comes to films. My opinions on the state of Hollywood’s integrity are fairly well-known throughout my group of peers — especially when it comes to the horror genre — so last weekend, when my wife and I tightened our bootstraps and took a deep breath while walking into the local Cinemark for The Conjuring, I had hoped that my drive to see this film wasn’t a miss and that I hadn’t wasted the $50 on tickets and concessions.
The Conjuring didn’t disappoint. Directed by James Wan (Saw, Dead Silence, Insidious), the film starts out with a bit of a back story, a case profiled by Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) involving a possessed doll terrorizing a couple of nurses in their apartment. During this ten minute look, the platform and the horror are established. Hell, everyone knows dolls are creepy. Then, we cut to the opening credits before getting to the meat of the story.
The year is 1971, three years before one of the most intriguing, polarizing, and prolific hauntings in American history — the Amityville Horror — was instigated by the Defeo murders. The events of The Conjuring take place before Ed and Lorraine Warren rose into the national spotlight with Amityville, when they investigated a Rhode Island farmhouse recently purchased by Carolyn and Roger Perron (Lili Taylor and Ron Livingston). The events in the home waste no time getting started. The discovery of a hidden basement provide the perfect catalyst, with the Perron’s family dog suddenly dying after refusing to go into the house, nasty bruises appearing on Carolyn’s body, the clocks all stopping at 3:07 am, a loud, incessant thumping in the walls, doors and windows slamming open and shut, the return of daughter Cindy’s (Mackenzie Foy) sleepwalking, and even a terrifying observation of an apparition by Christine (Joey King) hiding in the shadows behind her bedroom door. The Warrens arrive and investigate the home, becoming convinced that the place is dangerous and in need of an exorcism. While waiting for a response from the Catholic Church regarding the rite, the events in the farmhouse reach critical mass, prompting the Warrens to conduct the exorcism themselves. More creepy and screwed-up weirdness ensues, then all is well in the end. Lorraine makes a reference to strange events on Long Island (yes, Amityville), then roll credits.
Now, keep in mind that my expectations for The Conjuring were higher than they are normally when it comes to me going to the cinema, and the film really did not disappoint. It has a great blend of genuine scares, jump moments, and anxiety. That’s The Conjuring’s greatest strength. The anxiety builds, and builds, and builds, before erupting at the end and leaving you on the edge of your seat. The ending is somewhat anti-climatic, but given the state of the film beforehand, it’s probably better in the long run, considering that the film was nine-thousand kinds of disturbing beforehand. All in all, The Conjuring is the closest anyone has come recently to providing a legitimate horror experience. In an age where torture-porn and cheap scares run the gamut of the genre, it’s nice to be able to see something modern that invokes the psyche of 1970’s haunted house epics.