Very, Very Late Finally! Friday Halloween: The Conjuring

Why Finally? My attraction to spooky stuff has existed as long as I have; that’s why, at the age of eight or nine, I was already familiar with the work of psychic investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, on whose real-life adventures The Conjuring movies are based. (A bigger mystery is how I made it through seven years of Baptist school pursuing this stuff without being burned as a witch or, more prosaically, getting booted for Satanism.) Perhaps that seems too scary for a kid, but it was comforting, as I lay in bed at night playing the popular game “Dad Snoring? Or Bloodthirsty Demon-Thing Growling?” to know the boogeymen had opponents and the living had defenders.

On the other hand, I am also a big fat coward, so I suspected The Conjuring might be something of an endurance test.

Hey, look, an opening shot of the fractured eyeball of Annabelle, The Possessed Doll Of Evil! Maybe I’m clairvoyant too!

[shudders]
No: I mean “why,” when you said it would be done for Halloween, are we “finally” getting The Conjuring sometime after Thanksgiving Christmas Valentine’s Day St. Patrick’s Day Easter Memorial Day the NEXT Halloween?

Among other, more personal reasons, I didn’t want to screenshot the damned doll. Happy?

The Premise: Famed psychic investigators/demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) are called upon to help the Perron family with their newly acquired haunted house.

I’m more cynical about the Warrens as an adult, but must admit I enjoyed seeing two of my childhood heroes depicted in a movie.

Annabelle, the most horrific thing in the film by a large margin, is a mere side plot as she breaks out of the Warrens’ Friday the 13th: The Series-like storeroom and menaces their daughter. The outline of the main story will be familiar to anyone who ever caught The Amityville Horror on cable: the fixer-upper that turns into the fixer of little red wagons. And like those other movies, it’s easy to see how, given a sufficiently large space and a large family, communication breakdown can delay seeking assistance for even the most aggressive haunting.

Kids can be creepy even without haunted sleepwalking, but it certainly helps.

Eventually, the family’s matriarch Carolyn becomes the focus of the activity, and as you might imagine, things get worse before they get better.

The Verdict: Mixed. As a haunted-house movie, The Conjuring is effective to the point of creeping dread, even when characters are just walking between rooms. The casting is also superb: in addition to great performances by Wilson and Farmiga, Lili Taylor is perfect as Carolyn, the terrorized wife and mother who eventually takes on the darkness. My only objection is to the ultimate source of the haunting, which struck me as a tad goofy. Given that the movie is (depending how one feels about the Warrens) based on a true story/”based” on a “true” “story,” that may have been unavoidable. Certainly it’s not enough to stop me from checking out the sequel, and maybe even the Annabelle movies. No later than 3 p.m. and in strong daylight, of course.

Might go well with: Anything you can nibble without taking your eyes off the screen, House Hunters, NO DOLLS.

 

Next time: The recent second season of  a Netflix series. Nope, not that one.

J. A.

It reads. It writes. It watches. It researches. It overdoes many of those things!

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