The Conjuring (and Why We Like The Dark)
So now, we come to the latest scary movie out in theaters today: The Conjuring.
I was sent to see The Conjuring by Grace Hill Media. They are a PR and marketing firm established to reach "religious America". They have sent me to several screenings of movies that are "family friendly" or movies that had a strong theme of God and morality. So I was very surprised to see an e-mail from them offering a screening of The Conjuring. Thrilled, yes! But also surprised.
The Conjuring is a film about real-life couple Ed and Lorraine Warren. They were/are (Ed passed away in 2006) paranormal investigators and demonologists. This film chronicles their involvement with the Perron family - mom Carolyn, dad Roger and five daughters - and the spirits that inhabited the farmhouse they moved into in 1971. It's a formulaic plot. The Perrons are excited to move in, but the dog won't cross the threshold (don't get attached to the dog). They start to feel things/smell things/see things. It escalates. They bring in help. There's a final battle. Yawn, right? Wrong!!!
Director James Wan (Saw, Insidious) has impeccable timing. He gives you the first BOO scare even within five minutes and then he never lets you totally relax. You let your guard down, yes, but you don't ever relax. Just when you think that you know when/where the next scare is coming, he fools you. I cannot tell you the last time I was in a movie theater and the entire room screamed like they did during The Conjuring. We (the audience) would scream and then laugh - not because the scare was followed by a stupid joke or because we were embarrassed that we screamed, but just because we were having so much fun! At one point the friend that I took with me nudged me and said, "How did my knees get up here?" She had curled herself up on her seat. Three minutes later, my knees were up, too.
In my opinion, the women characters dominate the story. Patrick Wilson and Ron Livingston do a great job as Ed and Roger, respectively, but when I think back on the movie, it's the women who stand out as characters and actors. I loved Vera Farmiga as Lorraine. Lorraine is weak from a previous supernatural encounter that drained her, and Farmiga does a wonderful job of showing the strength that is wrapped in the fatigue. She also has a calming presence even when she is not on screen. It's almost as if you know that there is victory because Lorraine is involved. I'm so glad to see Lili Taylor again. She always brings a believability to her roles - from Say Anything to Dogfight to Ransom. She doesn't disappoint here. She is a mom who is scared, and who is desperate, but who is committed to her family and her home. She will protect her girls from anything and the pain on her face when she realizes who she has to protect them from is heartbreaking.
The movie is rated R (another reason I raised my eyebrows when Grace Hill contacted me), but the rating is for intense horror, not sexual situations, nudity or language. I appreciated that. And it certainly deserves the R. It was scary. Walter Hamada, one of the producers, is quoted at saying,
“When we sent it [to MPAA], they gave us the R-rating. When we asked them why, they basically said, ‘It’s just so scary. [There are] no specific scenes or tone you could take out to get it PG-13.’”
It is one of the most terrifying movies I've seen in a long time - maybe even second to The Exorcist. Creepy-scary, boo-scary and soul-scary. A trifecta!
***Spoiler at the bottom***
*Yes, I said we are "drawn" to darker themes. Why do you think we actively shun them? Because we're interested. I don't have to actively shun chicken livers. I'm not interested. I don't partake. I don't even think about partaking. However, I am VERY interested in chocolate. I have to turn my head when a gluten-heavy chocolate cake is presented in my presence. I have to actively think about how I would be miserable should I partake. I think it's the same with darker subjects - some of us are drawn to them.