I saw "The Conjuring" twice.
In the theater.
I never see movies twice, ESPECIALLY in the theater.
I loved "The Conjuring."
I don't claim to be some movie aficionado, in fact, I think that my taste in my movies is questionable at times ("National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" is hands down my favorite movie of all time. If I'm trying to sound smarter, I'll tell you "The Shining," which is a very close second, but my heart belongs to "Christmas Vacation.") But I know what I like, and "The Conjuring" hit a horror movie sweet spot for me, that I haven't seen on the big screen in years.
Obligatory "down a dark hallway" shot. Really, I'm amazed how shiny my hair is. And my face.
For me there were three main reasons "The Conjuring" was a really good ghost movie. They are:
(WARNING! SPOILERS AHEAD! SKIP AHEAD TO THE "NO SPOILER ZONE" IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THE MOVIE YET!)
1. What You Don't See
For the majority of the movie, you don't see what's scaring you. Yeah, there's a woman hanging from a tree, and glimpses of a ghost skirting about in the background, but the scariest stuff is left to your imagination.
And what you can imagine is always a bazillion times scarier (as far as ghosts are concerned) than what the filmmaker decides to show you. It feels like the spirits are lurking just out of frame, and if the camera were just to pan a little more to the right, you'd see something you don't really want to see.
For example, the scene where the little girl sees a ghost in the corner of her bedroom. WE DON'T SEE ANYTHING. But her staring intensely at the darkness behind a door, and saying, "It's standing right behind you" to her sister is more chilling than a gruesome creature peeking from the shadows.
A ball bouncing out of a pile of rubble, propelled by an unseen force, was so delightfully simple yet somehow grounded in "it could happen" reality, that I dreaded every minute of screen time spent in that creepy, secret basement.
I found myself getting swept up in the tension of events and, like the girl in the bedroom, staring intently at each scene, looking for the next weird occurrence that would hint at the entity hiding in the house.
2. Did You Hear That?
Tied into all that stuff you don't see was all the stuff you DO hear.
From the moment those kids started playing that clapping, hide-and-seek game (hide-and-seek in a horror movie is a TERRIBLE idea, am I right?), you knew no good would come of it .
Unseen hand claps, a piano playing itself, disembodied growls and voices -- all of this just further led me to believe that there was something none too friendly, skulking around that house, just out of sight.
Electronic Voice Phenomenon (EVP's), or ghostly voices caught on tape, are also one of my most favorite ghostly occurrences. The idea that some invisible thing is close enough to make a noise, or SAY SOMETHING INTELLIGENT TO ME, is in my opinion the mother of all scary things.
You think you're alone? Au contraire! If M. Night Shyamalan or Lorraine Warren has anything to say about it, there's always somebody there.
Which brings me to…
3. The Whole "Based on a True Story" Thing
Ghost movies can be spooky, but add in the "based on actual events" element, and it catapults the story into the next level of creepy.
This is where I think "The Conjuring" really shines.
Aside from a few "jump-scare" moments, most all the frights are things that anybody with just a modicum of belief in the supernatural could find plausible. There's no big monster reveal at the end, nobody gets eaten, nobody explodes. It's all based on the "spiritual" -- and I'm not necessarily talking religion -- fight between good and evil.
There's something very compelling about normal people, like ourselves, battling, and almost losing against a dark, mysterious, force. It's the basis for our fear of what goes bump in the night.
Something's coming to get you, and you can't hide.
*NO SPOILER ZONE!!!*
And of course, there's Ed and Lorraine Warren.
I'm not going to lie, going into "The Conjuring," I rolled my eyes a little at the Warrens.
Before seeing this movie, I'd long since decided that while they were a fascinating pair that have some great ghost STORIES, I was not entirely convinced that they were legit -- the Amityville house and it's supposedly debunked goings on, being in the forefront of my mind. (Ed and Lorraine were sort of the "original" ghost hunting -- sorry, demonologist -- duo, and were largely responsible for the Amityville haunting gaining so much fame.)
I'm still dubious, but I have to admit I'm curious about them again.
Nonetheless, even if the Warrens were total whack jobs who didn't have a shred of credibility to their names, "The Conjuring" and the way the Warrens were depicted in it, re-ignited my obsession with paranormal investigators or "ghost hunters."
I don't know if you've ever gone ghost hunting yourself, but the idea that people are willing to go into a reportedly haunted place, and then provoke or draw the ghosts out, is pretty terrifying to me.
The top floor of the theater I used to work for in LA was reportedly haunted. The spirit of the man whose private home the theatre used to be, supposedly hung out in what we called "The Tower."
One night, while we were closing up after an event, I had to go upstairs to get some files from my mailbox located just below the stairs to The Tower. All but one light was on at the far end of the hallway.
As I approached the stairs, I suddenly got the feeling of not being alone -- even though I was most certainly only one of three people left in the building that night.
I steeled myself, headed to my mailbox, and grabbed the files. As I passed the stairs and glanced upward into the dark, the hairs on my arms raised, and I heard rustling from the floor above.
"Hello?" I called out, but there was no answer. Deciding not to wait for one, I turned my back to the staircase and headed for the elevator. With my back turned, I most certainly heard the creaking of floorboards behind me, and a thump.
I yelped and took the stairs instead of waiting for the elevator. There was no way I was going to stand in the dark waiting for something to come down from The Tower.
Now, I know full well that my imagination was probably getting the best of me, but it's times like that, and I've had a few, that I cannot IMAGINE moving willfully TOWARD the sounds.
So no matter what I think of the Warrens and their actual hijinks, I do have a healthy respect for what they, and the people they have inspired to be investigators, endeavor to do.
I'm just not ready to do it myself. Yet. I've tried. It's a goal of mine.
So what did you think of "The Conjuring"? What movies scare you? Have you, or anyone you know, ever gone ghost hunting? Ever captured any ghost voices on tape? What do you think of the Warrens?
Sleep is for the weak! Tell me a ghost story!