Growing up, whenever we moved into a new house, I’d ask the real estate agent the same question.
“Hey, has anyone ever died here?”
Having been raised on “Amityville Horror” and “Poltergeist,” my goal in life until about the age of 13, before I discovered girls and Nintendo (not necessarily in that order), was to live in a haunted house.
I wanted to scream, “You moved the headstones, but you left the bodies. You left the bodies!” to an unscrupulous land developer, or moan, while in a psychic trance, “It’s the passage to HELL!!!”
I imagined being the hero by running back into the house to rescue the family dog just as the forces of evil within were about to consume it.
I was not a bright kid.
Had I seen “The Conjuring” during my formative years, I might have had a different fantasy: becoming a demonologist and marrying a hot medium.
What Fonzie did for leather jackets, Ed and Lorraine Warren did for ghost hunting. Much like Fonzie, played by admitted nerd Henry Winkler, the real-life Ed and Lorraine weren’t nearly as cool or good-looking as the actors playing them in “The Conjuring.”
And yet, by most accounts – including those of the surviving members of the Perron family, who lived for some 10 years in the farmhouse where the movie is set – “The Conjuring” is accurate … more or less.
“‘The Conjuring’ is based on a true story … our story,” eldest daughter Andrea Perron wrote in a letter in June 2013. “It’s based upon the case files of Ed and Lorraine Warren …There are liberties taken and a few discrepancies but overall, it is what it claims to be – based on a true story, believe it or not.”
The Perron family is terrorized by multiple entities, but the only one named is Bathsheba Sherman, a suspected witch who lived on a neighboring farm around 1885. While the “based on a true story” tagline gives “The Conjuring” a bit of this-could-actually-happen-to-me credence, remember that “The Amityville Horror,” which the Warrens also investigated, was also supposedly based on actual events but is now largely considered a hoax.
But who cares?
The real question is, were the movies scary? In both cases, the answer is a resounding “Yes!!!”
“The Conjuring,” largely because it’s set in the 1970s, looks and feels much like “The Amityville Horror,” which ranks as one of my all-time favorite movies. Like “Amityville,” “The Conjuring” is best when it’s simple, using darkness, silence and stillness to make the anticipation of a scare you know is coming all the more terrifying when it does.
Early in the film, one of the children senses or sees something in the darkness of her room. With tears welling in her eyes, she pleads with her older sister to step out of the shadows, saying, “It’s standing right behind you.”
Then the door slams.
AHHHHHHHH … awesome.
There are several such scenes – but as the tension builds, it inevitably leads to a possession/exorcism battle that, while well executed, turns a haunted house movie into a big-budget Hollywood horror movie franchise.
Still, “The Conjuring” is a fun and scary ride. Maybe it’s not too late for me to become a demonologist after all … just gotta find that good lookin’ medium.