31 Fright Nights: Halloween 2016, Night #17 – The Conjuring (2013)

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Tagline: Based on the True Case Files of The Warrens

Director: James Wan

Writer(s): Chad Hayes & Corey W. Hayes

Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures

Budget: $20m

Box Office: $318m

Release Date: 19th July, 2013

IMDb Rating: 7.5/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 86%

UK Blu Ray release? Yes

Cast

Vera Farmiga – Lorraine Warren

Patrick Wilson – Ed Warren

Lili Taylor – Carolyn Perron

Ron Livingston – Roger Perron

Shanley Caswell – Andrea

Hayley McFarland – Nancy

Joey King – Christine

Mackenzie Foy – Cindy

Kyla Deaver – April

Trailer

Plot According to Google: In 1970, paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren are summoned to the home of Carolyn and Roger Perron. The Perron’s and their five daughters have recently moved into a secluded farmhouse, where a supernatural presence has made itself known. Though the manifestations are relatively benign at first, events soon escalate in horrifying fashion, especially after the Warren’s discover the house’s macabre history.

Inertia’s Insight: The third film from Wan to feature in 31 Fright Nights, The Conjuring is his recent horror offering (not including The Conjuring 2 of course which, at the time of writing, I have yet to see). It’s testament to Wan’s ability to lay claim his signature directing style to each horror film without them feeling the same. The haunted house setting of The Conjuring is familiar ground for Wan, having walked it in Insidious and Insidious: Chapter 2, but with the Hayes brothers on pen duty he sets The Conjuring apart with its period setting and classic take on a famous ghost story.

Ed & Lorraine Warren are paranormal investigators working in partnership with the Catholic Church to understand, debunk and even exorcise occurrences of paranormal activity in people’s homes. Often finding sound explanations for strange sounds or movements, Ed & Lorraine occasionally have to exorcise forces in order to cleanse a house of evil. The Perron Family become the perfect embodiment of this.

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The story begins with a parallel focus on the Warrens and on the Perron’s. As the Perron’s move into their new family home and the sense of imbalance begins to show, the Warrens are investigating paranormal activity including the infamous Annabelle doll and lecturing on their career so far. Whilst the aspects of the paranormal and the unrest in the Perron household are teased by Wan, with slow, suggestive zooms on areas of the house and garden, there is also the the first twenty minutes spend time introducing us to the Perron’s and their family make-up. It’s a warranted move that invests you with the family so you can feel their horror as the haunting really begins.

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Meanwhile, the Warren’s story is also sculpted. As we are immersed into their world at a time when they are considered professionals in what they do, we see that the challenges and the horrors that they face on a daily basis have worn them down, particularly Lorraine who suffered a breakdown after a recent exorcism. Reluctant to enter the fray once again, the Warren’s and the Perron’s are inexplicably drawn together to face the evil that resides over the Perron’s new residence.

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The direction is exquisite. The palette is drained of colour save for the sharpness of the light from the lamps in each of the rooms. The home looks worn, dirty and crooked, and the decrepit tree in the yard which stands as the beacon for the evil that resides over the house is twisted and misshapen with the creeping fog settling in the background. The opening narrative followed by the title of the film is an immediate homage to 70’s horror, the title alone crafted to look like something from The Omen series, but it’s the direction that nails this vintage look. The slow zooms, the constant movement of the camera, the use of the 8mm camera for a short first-person perspective: Wan immerses us into the setting seamlessly, and with a beautiful homage to the horror’s that no doubt inspired him.

You can really feel the horror facing this ordinary 70’s American family. Once the investigative team have been established, the gradual reveal of this American haunting is perfectly done through set piece after set piece, viewed through the eyes of both skeptic and believer. It leaves no doubt as to the presence of this entity whilst also leaving no doubt that every audience member has left their skin at least once.

The film’s final act feels like a dedication to such same-era films as The Exorcist and Burnt Offerings. The basement scene is genuinely terrifying, not only from the make-up and the imagery but also the overriding theme of parenting coming in to the fold. A Mother’s love is a powerful force and in the end the bond that Lorraine and Carolyn form over their parentage enables them to defeat the evil that reigns over their land.

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A franchise surrounding the case files of Ed and Lorraine Warren is a given, as they have a history of paranormal experiences including the Annabelle doll (now a spin-off of its own) and the Amityville horror, but it is Wan’s ability to craft a superior horror film that ensures this might just become the next film serious, like Insidious and Saw before it. I anticipate the Blu Ray release of The Conjuring 2 with fearful but open arms when it is released in the UK on – oh, would you look at that? October 17th, 2016…

Inertia’s Ideal Score (* out of 5): * * * *

Trivia

  • Based on a true story – the Perron’s are a real family; Ed and Lorraine Warren are famous ghost hunters.
  • James Wan modeled the cinematography and atmosphere after vintage 1970’s horror films.
  • The film contains no sex or nudity, little profanity, mostly bloodless violence and brief depictions of alcohol yet still has an R rating, based solely on the fact that it is so scary.
  • Annabelle is used in promotional material but is not a vital part of the story.

Quotes

LORRAINE WARREN: She ran out to that three by the dock, climbed up, proclaimed her love to Satan, cursed anyone who tried to take her land, and hung herself. Time of death was pronounced at 3:07am in the morning.
ED WARREN: Well that explains a few things.

NARRATIVE: Since the 1960’s, Ed and Lorraine Warren have been known as the world’s most renowned paranormal investigators. Lorraine is a gifted clairvoyant, while Ed is the only non-ordained Demonologist recognised by the Catholic church. Out of the thousands of cases throughout their controversial careers, there is one case so malevolent, they’ve kept it locked away until now.

All images courtesy of Blu Shots: https://blushots.weebly.com


Tomorrow: Night #18 – Frontier(s)

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