"Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren work to help a family terrorized by a dark presence in their farmhouse." -IMDB
IMDB rating: 8.1
My rating: 7
*SPOILER ALERT: If you don't want to know a little extra, turn back now.
Set in 1971, The Conjuring, is based on the true story of the Perron haunting.
When Carolyn and Roger Perron move their family, consisting of five daughters, into their new home, things take a turn for the worst. The family, who doesn't have the means to leave, faces escalating paranormal activity, which starts with Carolyn developing strange bruises and ends with her full-on possession by a demonic presence known as "Bathsheba".
I'm a huge fan of haunted house stories, and to a lesser degree "based on true story" stories, and The Conjuring had a lot of hype to live up to. I went in with really high expectations and a brief background on the real Perron case, as the family reported it.
The first notable difference between the true story and the movie is the Anabelle doll. The movie opens with a brief sequence about two young nurses who, after learning their apartment is haunted by a young girl, grants her permission to inhabit what is arguably one of the creepiest dolls I've ever seen. The Warrens, our ghost hunters, tell the women that their is no little girl, that the soul is a demonic entity seeking to possess them, instead. Many reviewers say that the movie could've easily been all about Anabelle and it would've been just fine. I agree. I would've loved a good fictionalized Anabelle tale. As it was, the story segues into one about a secret room in the Warren's house where evil things are stored. I'm not sure I'd rest easily with a room full of haunted items, but the whole thing is quickly dismissed with Ed Warren stating, "a priest comes once a month to bless the room." Really? And that's enough? Okay...
The reported REAL Anabelle story was far less nefarious, and Anabelle was a Raggety Ann doll.
The Perron's story continues with strange noises, smells, and occurrences, until finally Carolyn seeks the Warrens's help. Now, I have no idea how the REAL story went on every point, but I can tell you a few things that stuck out for me (a couple of which don't relate to the real story):
1. "The children have never been baptized". This is a big sticking point, and potentially interferes with the church sanctioning an exorcism of the property. I say, if I'm in mortal danger, believer or not, and you tell me to baptize the kids, I'm doing it.
2. "Bathsheba forces mothers to murder their children." Carolyn's already been targeted, and when Lorraine Warren figures this out, she DOESN'T DO ANYTHING TO GET CAROLYN AWAY FROM THE KIDS. WTF? She waits until two of the children are kidnapped and for the possession to go full-on psychotic to deal with the obvious prime victim.
3. James Wan has a way of really ruining horror movies with cheesy bad guy graphics (Darth Maul in In'shit'ious, my least favorite Wan flick, comes immediately to mind). The Conjuring is no exception. Many of the horror elements fall short because the mystique is exchanged for over-done, crappy bad guy graphics. I don't want to see the ghosts, James, especially when they look like actors in Halloween make-up. Someone tell him, would you?
4. Anabelle feels forced. The opening is gripping, no doubt, but she feels like the add-on she is when she reappears for the second time, terrifying the Warrens' daughter in their absence. I had a hard time reconciling what one really had to do with the other when I knew the answer was nothing. This is supposed to be the Perron's story, and it should've been just that.
5. "The witchcraft angle". Trite, over-done, and a pet peeve of mine, the portrayal of "witchcraft" when one really means Satanism annoys me. They kept referring to the witch Bathsheba and her sacrifices to the devil.
I know, it sounds like petty bitching, right? It probably is. I'm a writer and I take issue with stories that aren't well-constructed. Others have complained about the tropes (birds attacking the house stuck out for me since I just saw Dark Skies, which had the same exact thing happen and certainly isn't the first movie to do so). The take home message is this: The Conjuring was fun, but, for me, didn't live up to the hype. The movie started off very slow and as things started to take off, there were obvious seams and areas of disjointed plot. Not the best haunting movie, but certainly not the worst. I can't help walking away feeling like I'd seen this all before, only done better.