Movie Review: The Conjuring (2013, Dir. James Wan)

The Conjuring Movie Review 2013

I’ve been ghost-hunting from an armchair since my grade school years. That’s when I first encountered a book called, The Demonologist: The True Story Of Ed And Lorraine Warren by Gerald Brittle. I came across it in a grocery store while grocery shopping with my mother. The book has been reprinted many, many times, and it has just gotten yet another reprint this September due to The Conjuring’s success at the box office this past summer. The 2013 cover isn’t as impressive or as eye-catching as the cover used in its initial printing back in 1980; a red cover with a black border and this crooked, black cross in the middle.

Not only is the title put directly on the cross horizontally, but also these words run above and below it:

“You are about to begin the most terrifying true experience of our time—”

“I have been slashed and cut: these spirits have gouged marks and symbols on my body. I have been thrown around the room like a toy…I’m talking about activity that’s going on right now!”

I think it’s that last line that sealed my fate on wanting it. On the back of the book it states, ‘WITH 16 PAGES OF ACTUAL PHOTOS.”

Yeah, that statement helped too.

I had my mother buy it for me and have really never been the same since. This book introduced me to the fact that there was something out there much more terrifying than ghosts, presuming you believe that these Evil forces exist and can affect human lives. Demons! Devils! Satan! I have never encountered anything remotely like what’s described in the book, and I hope to God (knock on wood) that I never do. Despite this, my mind has always remained open when it comes to the paranormal. After reading it I felt like I had been somewhat educated on something I had previously never known existed.

Since then the names Ed and Lorraine Warren have been burned into my mind. They have penned many more books like these that I currently own: Ghost Hunters: True Stories From The World’s Most Famous Demonologists, The Haunted By Robert Curran (made into a TV movie in 1991), and Graveyard: True Hauntings From An Old New England Cemetery and Werewolf—A True Story Of Demonic Possession.

All you need to do is google their names and you can see they are well known and will probably be even more so since the success of James Wan’s film, The Conjuring, which is based on a very notorious case they investigated back in the 70s.

There are two stories played out parallel to one another for the first half of the film. The first one introduces us to a man and a woman in 1968 interviewing a couple of women about the seemingly “possessed” doll they owned they named, Annabelle. We then see this man and woman in 1971 giving a lecture on paranormal phenomena, just before the opening credits roll they introduce themselves as Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga).

We are given access to the Warren’s life as they tour giving lectures about the demonic activity they have bumped up against in their lives. One particular exorcism they were involved with took a serious toll on Ed’s clairvoyant wife. She saw something that made her retreat to her room for eight days refusing to talk and eat.

In the second story we are introduced to the Perron Family, Roger (Ron Livingston) and Carolyn (Lilly Taylor) and their five daughters. They have just bought a farmhouse, but one that has an evil past they know nothing about. It begins with the mysterious death of their dog that refused to enter the house on moving day, then the clocks begin stopping at 3:07 am every night. The phenomena escalates to the point where their daughters are having their legs grabbed as they sleep, foul stenches, cold spots, and at its worst, actual destruction of their property, manifestations of a horrid entity that leaps upon one of the eldest daughters one night, and mysterious bruises that keep appearing on Carolyn’s body.

These two stories converge when Carolyn attends one of the Warren’s lectures and corners them in the parking lot pleading for them to come investigate their house. They do, expecting to debunk the woman’s fears with rational explanations, but upon arrival Lorraine’s clairvoyance kicks in and reveals to her the entity that has latched onto the family. As Carolyn and Roger tell Ed about the precise activity they’ve been enduring, he himself realizes something assuredly demonic is at work here.

The movie culminates in an exorcism that, even though it doesn’t surpass the benchmark of what The Exorcist (1973) did, it’s the second best exorcism, I think, put to film. Basically, this is because it was actually scary to watch. Speaking in general terms of the movie itself, this is the first film about “supernatural activity” that is pretty much on par with the way Hollywood used to make movies about ghosts back in the day, (i.e. The Haunting, The Uninvited, Legend Of Hell House), in that they used to make them scary.

A really authentic movie about ghosts, demons, or Satan is not about making the phenomena some kind of visual CGI fest (for example, the 1999 remake of The Haunting), it’s about fearful subtlety leading to blatant dread and then capping itself off in utter terror. I was never a fan of any of James Wan’s previous horror excursions until this movie came along, but from what I have seen in The Conjuring, he knows the value of an authentic scare, how to set it up, and how to pay it off using nothing more than sounds, acting, and camera effects, making any viewer believe this is probably how one of these infestations might actually occur. Don’t get me wrong — there are moments of CGI augmentation, but not to the extent where it puts the movie into comic territory. Because of this, I bow my head to Wan for making the kind of movie about the supernatural I did not think Hollywood had the ability to make anymore.

Warner Brothers releases The Conjuring in a DVD/Digital Copy and a Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital Copy Combo. This review covers the combo and with the combo you get two extra featurettes exclusive to the blu-ray.

Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1080p 2.40:1 HD anamorphic—English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, French Dolby Digital, Spanish Dolby Digital and Portuguese Dolby Digital—English, French, Spanish subtitles.

‘Scaring The $@% Out Of You’ (8:04) is the only featurette shared by both the DVD and the blu-ray and a nice behind-the-scenes of the writers, producer and director, Wan, on how they went about filming the movie.

The next two featurettes are the cream of the crop. The Conjuring: Face-To-Face With Terror’ (6:39) is an interview with select members of the Perron family on what they went through in their haunted house. Carolyn is aware of the movie, but doesn’t ever think she’ll be able to watch it. And to this day she still feels threatened by the entity that plagued her family.

‘A Life In Demonology’ (15:39) covers in brief the history of Ed and Lorraine. How they met, their ghost hunting and their encounters with the demonic. What struck me in this particular featurette was learning that neither Ed nor Lorraine ever felt especially frightened by the paranormal activity they investigated, which is why they were able to make such a career out of it. Lorraine even admits that she never felt frightened by it because she always felt protected and she states she’ll never retire.

For those who don’t know Ed died in 2006.

This was a hell of a scarefest, and a hell of a story, and the actors’ chosen were perfect for their characters, especially Wilson and Farmiga for Ed and Lorraine respectively. From what I understand, a sequel has been green-lit and hopefully Wan plans on returning as director. The last I heard, they were trying to decide which one of the Warren’s cases they were going to adapt next.

Own it on Blu-ray™ Combo Pack and HD Digital Download 10/22!

you-won-cannes-conjuring-cover

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