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Saturday, August 3, 2013

"The Conjuring" = "The Haunting" + "The Exorcist" - 20 IQ Points

"The Conjuring" did scare me, but twenty minutes after I left the theater, I'd momentarily forgotten that I'd just seen it. While I was watching it I got a little bored and some scenes tempted me to laugh. If you've seen 1963's "The Haunting," 1973's "The Exorcist" and 1944's "The Uninvited" you've seen three much better films from which "The Conjuring" gets its bag of tricks.

Probably any clever film student could make something like this movie. We all know the basic ingredients: a large, old house in an isolated setting. The house should be attractive but something about it makes it ugly. It's in New England. It's autumn: cold winds blow skittering dead leaves. An innocent family moves into the house. The family is generic, without too many details; they are All-American and the audience can identify with them. They do normal things like go to the beach and watch "The Brady Bunch."

Their new home contains many dark and dusty nooks and crannies. There are antique curios that look a bit menacing.

Suddenly, during a quiet night, a strange noise is heard. For some reason, no one in this family ever switches on normal lighting. Rather, they use weak flashlights or match flames.

An innocent child arises from bed in a long white nightgown. She moves slowly, slowly, slowly, down a dark hall to investigate the noise. The scene is very quiet, very long, and very repetitive. You know that eventually the innocent child is going to come across something unusual: a vision of a hanged person, the reflection of a ghost in a mirror, or something truly terrifying, an IRS man there to conduct an audit.

You know that at the same moment that the defenseless family member sees the unusual thing, the previously silent scene will burst with sudden, loud, and oppressive noise. The sudden vision and noise will startle you, and you will be scared. What you paid the ticket price for. Oh, and the family dog dies, birds act weird, and mom is bruising easily.

At first, of course, everyone in the house writes off these events as mere chance. Everyone is rational and is not tempted to believe in the supernatural. Eventually someone in the family levitates or clocks stop or people feel cold or something. Just like in "The Haunting," there are loud banging noises. Just as in "The Uninvited," a family member is possessed by the dark energies of the house, and there is the ghost of a bad mother and a not-so-bad mother. Just as in "The Exorcist," there will be an exorcism.

So the team of experts is brought in. They speak some ancient language like Latin and possess arcane knowledge. I won't tell you any more because that would reveal the end of the movie to you, but I bet you can guess.

I'll just say that at one point, the satanic shenanigans in the house reach fever pitch. Satan is beating the stuffing out of these poor fools. Any sane person would immediately evacuate. At that point a paranormal investigator, Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) says, "Leaving the house won't help because the dark spirits have attached themselves to you." OH COME ON. Vera Farmiga may as well have said, "You can't leave now because there's still forty-five minutes to go in the movie."

Vera Farmiga is a scintillating actress. She electrifies every scene she is in. Patrick Wilson is perfect as her husband; they have great chemistry. The movie wastes them, though. The filmmakers don't seem to realize that Farmiga's human depth and complexity are the best thing the movie has going for it, and utilizing that human power would have made their film a classic, rather than just another "Boo!" movie.

"The Excorsist," "The Haunting" and "The Uninvited" are all scary but they are also deep. They present big themes. "The Conjuring" avoids big themes. One character tries to kill another, and it's the kind of killing that makes your skin crawl. The movie makes no attempt to plumb these murky waters.

"The Conjuring" misrepresents evil and Catholicism. When the Warrens arrive at the haunted house, Lorraine has a rosary strung from her wrist. Ed Warren places little wooden crucifixes around the house. In the exorcism scene, Latin is spoken. This isn't true spirituality; it's fetishism – the belief that objects and rituals possess supernatural power. They do not. Only God has power. I am a Catholic, I pray the rosary, and I believe in Satan. The force that defies Satan is not an object, a rosary, it is rather faith in God.


Owners of the home now are harassed by film fans see article here


A youtube video of the Warrens at work below: 


  1. Magdalena PaƛnikowskaAugust 3, 2013 at 6:35 AM

    "Leaving the house won't help because the dark spirits have attached themselves to you."

    So evil spirits are pretty much like bedbugs then? ;-)

    Thanks for the review Danusha, I really enjoyed it!

  2. I haven't seen these movies, but an interesting review. I certainly believe in Satan - I believe he is, as the Bible says, the ruler of the current world system of things.

    You make a good point here: "Suddenly, during a quiet night, a strange noise is heard. For some reason, no one in this family ever switches on normal lighting. Rather, they use weak flashlights or match flames."


    And given a Room of Terror at the top of a creepy deserted old castle, in which no-one has ever been known to survive the night, you or I would never go near the place. But denizens of movies can't wait to get up there, with one guttering candle stub, and spend the night there on their own.

    Still, there wouldn't be many of these movies made without people so reckless.

    Re the way Catholicism is presented... as I said I haven't seen these movies, but I imagine it would be presented as something sinister.

    I have two thoughts about that. Firstly, I neither like to approve the Politically Correct agenda which says that some religions must be presented as sinister and/or foolish but others must never be criticised.

    But - and as you know I was a Catholic Convent schoolgirl from the ages of 4 to 18 - I do believe that Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox Churches have gone tragically wrong. If I didn't think that, I would still be a Catholic.

    However does that belief entitle me to make movies in which I portray them as baddies? I don't think so.