Last night I watched The Conjuring. It was a dark, rainy Saturday night, perfect for snuggling down with Netflix and this deliciously creepy flick. If you haven’t seen it, it’s the best haunted-house movie to come out in a long time. It stars Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson as vintage 1970s paranormal investigators (complete with calf-length skirts and ruffled blouses), and Lili Taylor as the homeowner whose home is… not her own.
Now this wasn’t the first time I’d watched the movie. I saw it when it was first released in 2013. But I’d seen something about it recently — a still from it, or maybe it was a clip on YouTube — and I decided I had to watch it again.
And because it’s October, I figured it was worth a post in this blog.
However, rather than simply ramble about the movie (I would never do that), I figured I’d pick, say, five things that make it good. I had to think hard about this, and I had to do some swapping in and out to keep the list to five. This really is among the best of the best when it comes to scary movies, and if you haven’t seen it, hopefully this list will entice you (and fyi: no plot-spoilers here).
So, without further adieu… five reasons to watch The Conjuring:
- The house
In some scary movies, the house is simply a location. A place. Four walls and a roof, under which people live and shit happens. Take, for instance, the Paranormal Activity series: gorgeous home, with that to-die-for kitchen and ginormous staircase; however, the house is not especially frightening in and of itself.
In other movies, the house is a character in its own right. The first example that comes to mind is 212 Ocean Avenue — a.k.a. The Amityville Horror.
The Perron home in The Conjuring is the same. Now I must say right up front that the house in the movie is not the real Perron home. The real home where the haunting reportedly took place is a rather plain-looking farmhouse in Harrisville, Rhode Island. The movie home is located at 405 Canetuck Road in Wilmington, North Carolina.
But who cares. The movie is based on a true story, and the house we see in the film makes the story much more convincing. That’s good enough for me. (Should I add that the interior shots of the house are sets? I guess you can’t win ’em all.)
- Vera Farmiga
Already very attractive, here, as medium Lorraine Warren, Farmiga has a feminine prettiness and maternal softness that you remember somebody’s mom having way back when. Maybe it’s the ruffles. Maybe it’s the fact that we see her fold laundry. Either way, while she’s good in whatever she’s in, she’s really spot-on here.
- The tree
That big lonely tree down at the end of the yard is…well, if you’ve seen the movie, you know it. Enormous black trunk. Looming, clawing branches that look like they could reach down and grab you. More than just a prop, the tree is central to the storyline — and one scene in particular that still totally creeps me out.
- The dresser
Maybe ‘dresser’ isn’t the right word. This thing is a mother of a wardrobe. Like the tree outside, the dresser inside is a big, dark, looming fixture where bad things happen. I myself would now think twice about buying one; I’d never rummage around in one; and I sure as hell wouldn’t stand in front of one without first checking above it.
- The kids
Not these kids. These kids are real. They’re a bit disheveled and a bit nerdy and their rooms are messy. Just like real kids. No doubt they had good coaching from director James Wan (who is, by the way, the man behind Insidious and Saw, and who even created Billy the Puppet).
I said I had trouble keeping the list to five. The following was also worth noting…
The game It’s called hide ‘n clap. One person is blindfolded. The others hide. Those in hiding then clap (up to three times, at the searcher’s request) until everyone is found. This is the Perron family’s favourite game. And I think it adds to the authenticity of the movie. I so remember playing hide ‘n seek at my cousins’ place in Arnprior, Ontario — except that we played it in the dark (basement, lights off, no blindfolds needed). And while it scared the bejesus out of me, I loved it. Hide ‘n seek. Kick the can. Nicky nicky nine doors. Didn’t every kid in the 70s play at least one of these games? Of course, in a horror movie, the game takes on a new dimension when a stranger decides to join in. I’ll say no more.
The 70s The 1970s were a kinder, gentler time. No, seriously. There was no internet, no Osama bin Laden (that we knew of), no Snapchat, no Kardashians. It was a more innocent era, and that fact adds to the movie’s atmosphere. Even my 17-year-old son, who’s cynical and skeptical about everything, likes the comfortable, worn-in feeling the decade lends the movie. My own theory is that it makes everything feel somehow familiar and ‘real’ — which in turn makes it all more scary. Make sense? (Plus you get some great 70s tunes along with it.)
The witch Bathsheba is her name (of course it is). Bathsheba Sherman. Nothing like a good ole grassroots Biblical moniker to set the stage for some unholy shit. And she is indeed one scary woman. How frightening Bathsheba Sherman was in real life might be up for debate. By the way, a bit of trivia: the actor who played the witch was a man, Joseph Bishara, who also composed the music for the movie.
So… Now… How can you possibly resist? It is October, after all. Tonight would be a perfect night to put on your jim-jams, dim the lights, fire up a candle or two… and keep your pillow handy.