The Conjuring

tn_conjuringI’m always open to a James Wan movie just because I love DEATH SENTENCE so much. But everything else he’s done (until FAST AND FURIOUS 7 next summer) is horror, so it’s pretty different. SAW was okay, I kinda liked INSIDIOUS, haven’t seen the other one (DEAD SILENCE) yet. I probly wouldn’t have rushed out to see this except I heard good word including from some of you commenters who I trust.

Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga play Ed and Lorraine Warren, supernatural investigators or demonologists. They’re actually based on a real couple who famously investigated the cases that AMITYVILLE HORROR and A HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT and I think GHOST DAD and CASPER MEETS WENDY were based on, and wrote several books about this type of shit. I guess this is kind of like CONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MIND where the movie pretends to believe their story and tells it as they would tell it.

mp_conjuringThe movie’s about the Warrens getting called in to help a family (Ron Livingston, Lilli Taylor, a bunch of daughters) who have recently moved into a farmhouse and then start experiencing a bunch of ghostly funny business: somebody grabbing their foot when they’re asleep, weird bruises, doors closing, dead people rudely interfering with hide and seek games, etc.

I’ve said it before and I’ll have to say it again, I’m not that into haunting and possession movies. This one works a little better because it doesn’t have that PARANORMAL ACTIVITY or LORDS OF SALEM or ANTICHRIST type of pattern of normal life, weird thing happens with no consequences, back to normal life, other weird thing happens with no consequences, repeat. It has more of the POLTERGEIST structure to it, the escalating series of incidents, the investigators coming in, trying to figure out what’s going on, trying to figure out how to get rid of the spirits. But Wan’s own INSIDIOUS (also starring Patrick Wilson) was closer to POLTERGEIST in that it created a fantastical mythology about the ghost world. THE CONJURING tries to be grounded and stick to the “real” “facts” about ghosts, which is well done but ultimately unsatisfying to someone like me who is gonna feel kinda insulted by the suggestion that I’m supposed to believe this horse shit. I’d rather we were all in agreement that this is not real and that it would be cooler to have a cool fuckin effects monster ghost than a loud knock on the door and then when you open it nobody’s there.

But Wan has chops. He creates a nice ’70s period look, he uses camera moves as part of the storytelling, and obviously plans them out, like they used to do. He has several well done suspense/scare sequences where they’re just trying to do something normal and then holy shit there’s a little boy reflected in the mirror or the sound of breathing inside the wardrobe or something. Like in INSIDIOUS the ghostbusting procedure (this time using ’70s technology) is a big part of the fun. I like how they set up cameras to be triggered when there’s a sudden drop in temperature, this way you can follow a trail of camera flashes to see the path of the ghost. It’s kinda like the buoys in JAWS.

I guess Wan wanted to call it THE WARREN FILES, which would make more sense (what the fuck is being conjured?) and fit better for the sequel I’m sure they’ll make. It makes the movie feel pretty fresh because by showing the Warrens doing lectures they’re able to work in a bonus mini-story that ends up tying in in a strange way. And we see their collection of haunted or cursed objects from previous cases which is really cool, it implies all this history, works as a threat (don’t touch anything!) and creates a sort of ritual. We know that if they solve this case they’ll put a related object on a shelf in there and it will be satisfying. They probly wouldn’t admit it, but it’s a trophy room.

conjuring_dollcomparisonWe know from SAW and DEAD SILENCE that Wan is into creepy dolls, so it’s kinda hilarious that he opens with a story about two young nurses being terrified by a doll. And it’s the most hideous would-only-be-in-a-horror-movie-and-not-be-an-actual-doll-somebody-would-have doll you ever saw. I kept wondering why the fuck these young women would have this fuckin thing in their apartment (not to mention why they feel they have to open the door late at night when somebody pounds on it). It’s funnier when you read about the case that inspired it and find out it was a Raggedy Ann doll that they claimed tried to strangle them. I guess if they stayed true to that in the movie it would be more funny than scary. Or maybe more cute.

What I like about this movie is that it’s very character driven. I wasn’t as much scared as I was invested in this family and in this couple. I really believed in Ed and Lorraine’s love for each other to the point where I found it kind of moving to watch Ed running around the house panicked after his wife falls through a floor. Same with the dad, Roger, and his protective love for his wife and daughters. I also really liked the relationship between Ed and Roger. They have a mutual respect and friendship that we see when they nod at each other. And I always like Vera Farmiga, she plays multi-layered characters and is a good respectable actress who throws herself Kevin Bacon style into these b-movies.

I know I’m the only one that cares about this, but I gotta bring it up again how I think these horror movies are on the wrong side of history on the Salem Witch Trials verdicts. In this one the Warrens mention somebody hung in the trials, and then I missed exactly what the connection was but they pin this haunting (conjuring?) on a lady who they say was a Satan worshipper who sacrificed children. I do believe they are once again saying that this shameful piece of our history where innocent women were executed was actually the right thing to do because of scary devils and monsters. It’s not as front-and-center in the story as it was in LORDS OF SALEM, but it’s probly more offensive since it’s claiming to be a true story.

From what I’ve read, the name they say in the movie as the ghost is an actual historical figure who the family blamed because of local legends about her being a witch and baby murderer. I feel kinda bad about this because in my opinion it is more likely that the actual [name withheld] was just a weird old lady that the neighbors didn’t like than an actual baby-sacrificing Satanist. I mean, I remember two different old ladies in my neighborhood that the kids said were witches, and that was even in the modern world when people should know better. I know it was a long time ago but it’s kinda shitty that we gotta drag this poor dead lady’s name through the mud just because of some local superstition. It’s like if Freddy Krueger was named after a real guy who got burned up in a war and the neighbor kids thought he was scary and made up stories about him having claws and killing children. Not fair to the Krueger legacy!

By the way, may I suggest that if you want to just watch and enjoy this thing, that you don’t then go home and read about the Warrens like I did? In the movie they’re these cool characters who are very honest and are shown going to reported hauntings and figuring out the logical explanation for the thing, saying that most of the time it’s nothing. If you read up on them you’ll find that they didn’t exactly have that kind of, uh, scientific skepticism. And apparently one of the items in their real life collection of occult items is a Dungeons and Dragons manual. I don’t know, man, I should be able to just enjoy this as fiction. But somewhere in my head I know that some people think this is real, and I don’t, and it creates an intellectual distance that’s not helpful to fully enjoy a horror movie. You gotta let yourself go.

Anyway, everyone seems to be enjoying this movie, and having a blast with it, but are they having a spookablast? I don’t know if you remember this, but when DRAG ME TO HELL came out four years ago Sam Raimi referred to it as a “spookablast” in interviews, and then all the sudden people started using that word in their reviews and articles as if it was an existing piece of their vocabulary. But I haven’t seen anybody use it on this one. There are definitely spooks, but is it enough of a blast? Does it blast hard enough?

The answer in my opinion is that it is a little too grounded to qualify. In Raimi’s movie he took everything to cartoonish extremes. THE CONJURING has its characters getting thrown across the room by unseen forces. In DRAG ME TO HELL she gets thrown hard against walls and furniture, smashing things. She gets hung upside down by the ceiling and spun around and smacked against things. Raimi doesn’t just have a creepy lady jump off the wardrobe, he has her attack his heroine in her car and lose her false teeth and then disgustingly gum her on the chin. That’s why it’s a blast. Also, there is a powerful hose-like blast of blood that sprays from her nose onto her boss at the bank.


That’s just a bad day at work, you know?

* * *

I actually wasn’t gonna review THE CONJURING, because I do think it’s a good movie and I get why people like it and there’s probly not much value in me being the wet blanket who complains about not liking ghost movies that much. But it inspired me to come home and get out my DRAG ME TO HELL dvd and watch it again. And holy shit, that movie is good! I know it was internet-loved at the time but it seems like then it kinda got forgotten. So this is your reminder.

Like THE CONJURING it’s very character driven. I’m not gonna claim it’s as good as the EVIL DEAD movies, but I like that it’s in that same vein but with a more complex lead character. Over the course of the movie we learn that she’s running from her sad family situation (father died young, mother is an alcoholic who barely speaks). At least around her boyfriend’s snobby rich parents she’s ashamed of her background, growing up on a farm, even though it gives her an understanding of things (and recipes) that she should be proud of. But she’s always trying to change herself, worrying about gaining weigh again (she was merely chubby in the photo we see), listen to tapes to work on her enunciation (and lose an accent?). She does good work at the bank, but it’s a boy’s club, and a job for assholes.

Lots of horror movies deal with morality, and this one (by accident I think) deals with it in a very current way. She’s a compassionate person, she obviously wants to give the old lady the loan extension, but she correctly guesses that she can impress her boss by out-assholing her competition for the big promotion. It’s clear why she does it, but it was still her decision, and throughout the movie she refuses to take responsibility for it. Every time it comes up she says it was the bank, she just works there. Even in an intense seance she tells the spirit world that it was her boss’s fault.

Then there’s the section where she has the opportunity to pass the curse on to another person. It’s like in THE BOX where you can get a million dollars but somebody else has to die. But in this case she wouldn’t get a million dollars, she just wouldn’t get dragged to hell. She tries to find an asshole who might deserve it, and comes very close to giving it to the dickhead who screwed her over at work. But ultimately she realizes she can’t put her curse, her fuckup, on somebody else. It’s either her or the hag who gave it to her in the first place. That’s the good person we knew she was from the beginning, even though she’s made alot of mistakes (including murdering her own adorable kitten).

still_dragmetohellAnd then there’s all that spookablastination I mentioned, the crazy over-the-top visitations and imaginatively disgusting ideas like the fly that crawls into her mouth while she’s asleep and is later heard buzzing inside her stomach. Man, she really goes through the ringer, and gets in disgusting positions with the dead lady on two separate occasions (both times losing a chunk of her hair!) It’s effective enough to make me cringe a few times, and I’m rooting for this poor girl to get out of it, and also I’m laughing. With this kind of intensity I think it might work on me even it was just a series of weird events, but it has a really tight story to it with a time limit, a goal, problem solving and a piece of storytelling sleight of hand to get to a great punchline and then slam the giant title on screen. It’s just a great time at the movies, or on the DVD player.

There was some grossout stuff in here I didn’t remember, I guess because I saw it in the theater when it was PG-13. I think they digitally added some extra goo in some places. Obviously I’d prefer the genuine article fake blood, but this works. The one change I noticed where I preferred the old way was it used to cut directly from her calling for her cat to burying it in the backyard. Now you see her aghast as she stabs down at the thing (you don’t see the cat, but blood splatters). It’s still a good “oh shit is she really doing this?” moment but the timing was a little funnier before.

Anyway, let me know what you think of THE CONJURING, but also let’s not forget about DRAG ME TO HELL. It looked like we had that Sam Raimi back for a minute there.

original review

This entry was posted on Sunday, July 21st, 2013 at 11:17 pm and is filed under Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

51 Responses to “The Conjuring”

  1. I liked this movie quite a bit. I don’t buy that any of this stuff happened, and I didn’t really have any problem playing along, though I get your concerns. It’d suck if this was like another Michelle Remembers and renews peoples’ interest in all that satanic panic stuff.

    I liked the way they established the Warrens as being kind of unflappable badasses in their little world of ghost possessions, they’ve seen it all and nothing really bothers them, they joke around with the “new cop” (? I didn’t really understand why that character was there or why he was needed for their investigation); when she sees a ghost hanging from a tree, she just kind of sighs, business as usual. When we see their trophy room, they’re pretty cavalier about it, they mention they have a priest come by every so often to keeps things settled but it’s kind of an afterthought. They’re confident enough in their skills that it won’t hurt them.

    So then when shit goes bad later and even these guys are shook up, you know it’s serious. From my layman’s perspective, that exorcism did not look like it was going well.

    I also liked the way the ghosts have individual personalities and goals. At first it seems like it’s just one ghost messing with everybody, but then you realize the little kid is trying to get people into his closet to find his little hideout, while the kid’s mom wants somebody to know that the original ghost made her do it, etc.

    I didn’t expect them to, but was still a little disappointed that they never really into what kind of interactions there were between the doll spirit and the ghost from the house. We only get a slight sense that the ghosts in the house interact with one another at all, I wanna see more about how these various “demons” and “ghosts” play off each other. Does that doll get all offended that some new ghost is stepping onto her turf? If there’s a sequel, I’d like to see them desperately try to use one of their old relics to start a ghost fight. That samurai armor in their trophy room looked pretty promising.

  2. I think OZ had all the old Sam Raimi too, that sort of carnival huckster throwing things at the hero fun.

    I also liked that the Warrens were happy to debunk a fake ghost, and the bad motherfuckers that a real ghost doesn’t wanna fuck with. Disappointing to hear they just liked to make people buy into this shit.

    I don’t get keeping all the artifacts though. As trophies it makes sense, but if you actually believe they’re evil, just destroy them. Keeping them in a room that your curious kids can get to is just a recipe for a sequel.

  3. Oh, I forgot to mention regarding the real Warrens — I was wondering in the movie if they charged people to come out and do their ghost hunts, since the subject of payment never seemed to come up. My wife told me later that she’d read that they didn’t charge anything and made all their money on the lecture circuit, and from book royalties / signings. So that’s pretty cool, at least — even if it’s not true that hunt for a plausible explanation over a supernatural one, at least they weren’t taking anything from people but their time.

  4. I tend to think that if ghosts are real, they probably have minimal influence on reality, so I don’t believe in over the top shit like a doll trying to strangle somebody, that kind of thing does not happen in the real world

    but someone seeing something that may not just be their imagination? ……maaaaaaybe

  5. I mean, what if ghosts are just something like “mental residue”? the human brain sometimes picking up on past memories or something, like a radio picking up static, not literally someone’s soul floating around

  6. yeah i didnt really like this movie at all. vern you helped me solidify my thoughts on why most of these haunted house ghost things don’t click for me: the ghosts seem to have infinite power to do whatever nonsense seems spooky at the time to the filmmakers, but they just use it to fuck around to no real end. while i was watching it i just kept thinking i would rather be watching poltergeist, and now that you have reminded me of it, drag me to hell was fucking great and i’m gonna buy the blu ray right now.

    and fuck the warrens. enablers for the mentally ill that tried to get a murderer acquitted by saying he was possessed by demons. i feel guilty that i paid to see this movie.

  7. Tugboat, good points about the motives of the different ghosts. I didn’t pick up on all that.

  8. Drag Me to Hell is fantastic!

    I guess I’ll get around to seeing this this eventually.

  9. Griff – and what if aliens are just the result of goblins sneezing? Kinda pointless to try and explain away one thing for which no evidence exists with another thing for which no evidence exists. I think you’re missing the most obvious explanation: it’s all complete bunk, top to bottom. Claims require *evidence* to warrant your consideration.

  10. I didn’t really like the first Saw movie, so I never got on the Wan train, but I’ve heard that he’s gotten really good at crafting this haunted movies over the years. Horror movies are wonderful opportunities for a talented directors to show he understands the basic language of cinema. That and the fact that they’re cheap make horror films a good way for inexperienced directors to really that they have what it takes at the helm of a feature length movie.

    I can wimp out when it comes to horror movies. I’ll watch gory films from time to time, but I have to make absolutely sure that it will be worth my time. Otherwise, I tend to like horror movies that emphasize atmosphere. I also like the horror/comedy hybrid (your Screams and your Evil Dead 2s), which I know is somewhat anathema around here. I know Vern is iffy on horror movies with too much comedy. I’m just wondering, why does Drag Me to Hell get a pass? (I too really loved that movie. It had everything I personally wanted out of a horror film).

  11. This’ll be a rental. Drag Me to Hell was excellent. Loved the ending. A hoot.

  12. the only James Wan movie I’ve seen is DEAD SILENCE and it was…..ehhhhh, a cut above the average horror flick of the era I guess but nothing really great or memorable

  13. it felt like an R rated GOOSEBUMPS movie

  14. I saw dead silence whenever it first came out on DVD. I remember it being not very good but definitely weird. At one point a dead or undead Bob Gunton (of Shawshank warden fame and various other indignant bad guy and/or authority figure character actor roles) is being operated as though he were a hand puppet.

  15. RBatty – I prefer ones where it is a horror movie that’s funny, as opposed to a comedy in the style of a horror movie. AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON and EVIL DEAD 2 get the balance exactly right, and same goes for DRAG ME TO HELL. The ones I don’t like as much are funny but at the expense of me taking the horror part seriously.

  16. Injecting humor into a horror movie is a tricky business. I respect those who can do it well, because it’s a delicate balance. I think Vern’s formulation makes sense. They’re horror movies first, but they happen to be funny.

  17. Vern – I’m sorry but 2 complaints of yours I’ll have to tackle.

    (1) You and me don’t believe a man can really fly, but that didn’t stop you from liking MAN OF STEEL. For a film about the supernatural to work, you have to accept on this fictional level that ghosts/demons/whatever are “real.” The same with any other form of fantasy storyteller with witches or Hobbits or whatever the fuck. I’m willing to suspend my disbelief to a degree, as long as the film doesn’t shit all over it and abuse that trust.

    (2) Now I know Vern, you’ll bring up the “Based on a True Story” claim and say that it really matters. Why does that bother you so much? Most of us who’ve watched enough movies understand that “Based on a True Story” is a label pretty much promising bullshit topped with bullshit. I view films as fiction, even the “based on a true story” ones. I mean MY DARLING CLEMENTINE and I guess TOMBSTONE, the best Wyatt Earp movies ever made probably. And they’re bullshit compared to the “real” Wyatt Earp. (Kasdan’s WYATT EARP tried to tell a story about the “real Earp,” and it was boring as shit.)

    Better example, Oliver Stone’s best film: JFK. Great, riveting murder mystery. It’s also based on garbage when you read about Jim Garrison and his embarrasing “investigation.” Or on that same wavelength, ZODIAC.

    Meanwhile, Sloan called THE CONJURING a “right wing, women hating” movie.

    The former is a given, but the latter? I don’t see it. Sorry, I don’t.


  18. Mr Vern, do you like the original THE HAUNTING movie directed by Robert Wise in the 1960s? That movie also goes for a “reaistic” approach to the ghost and haunted house genre, as was a common thread in Wise’s movies (he was a nuts for naturalism and believability in his movies), and that movie is one of the best examples of the dor opening and there was is no ghost or monster to be seen type of horror film.
    And i believe the greatest reason why DRAG ME TO HELL is so enjoyable is not so much the story itself or the directing aplomp of Raimi but the movie’s secret weapon in the casting of Alison Lohman as the lead. She brings a likability to the main character that another actress would make her unsympathetic and a bitch for us to root against.

  19. RRA – I always try to put my finger on why this is an issue for me, and what I came up with that I tried to describe in the review is that knowing this is bullshit, and yet that we are supposed to (and many people do) believe it is based on reality, creates an intellectual distance that is distracting. I shouldn’t be thinking “well hold on, now, these people are liars and we’re pretending they’re heroes?” If a horror movie is going to be really effective it’s going to have to work on a more primal level where you’re not busy thinking about issues like that while the scary thing is making noises in the dark.

    A rare non-horror example would be ARGO though, I had trouble getting past having read the article and knowing that the operation actually went smoothly and therefore all of the exciting parts were completely made up.

    asimov – I’ve seen THE HAUNTING and liked it but didn’t flip for it like most people do. I’ll probly try again some day.

    I agree about Alison Lohman and it’s interesting because she signed on last minute after Ellen Page dropped out. I do think Page would’ve been good, but I’m glad it worked out how it did.

  20. I don’t believe in ghosts any more than I believe in werewolves or Jasons, but ghost movies scare me more than other kinds of horror movies. I think the reason is BECAUSE I don’t believe in them. Because what if they WERE real? You get attacked by a werewolf, if you manage to survive, you’d actually think that was pretty cool. The world just got a little more interesting. Me, an atheist, I’d have to readjust my whole worldview if I found out ghosts existed. I’d suddenly have to worry about my eternal soul, which I don’t at present even believe in. I don’t want to get stuck haunting some piece of shit house for all eternity, reliving over and over the most traumatic shit that ever happened to me. We’re talking life after death here. Eternity. That’s what scares me. Any old thing can murder me. No skin off my back. It’ll all be over soon. But ghosts mean death is not the end. Things can get worse. FUCK THAT.

    Also, ghost movies tend to be about something scary happening to you right in your own home, whereas a lot of other kinds of horror movies are about people going somewhere they shouldn’t and finding scary shit there. I’m not afraid of that so much because all you gotta do is get away or, even better, don’t go fucked up places in the first place. But something living in your house with you, the place you’re supposed to feel safest, that’s unsettling. You’re just hanging out in your PJs, feeling comfy and vulnerable, and all of a sudden there’s something there that shouldn’t be there, and nothing’s ever the same again. Which is why I’m not afraid to say that THE CONJURING got me good.

    What do you guys think of the Christian stuff in there? I definitely don’t believe in any of that, but I didn’t mind it in there. I kinda like it because it means the Warrens weren’t whitewashed too much by the Hollywood machine. You want your demons, you gotta take some God with it. Cost of entry. Though I wonder what the Warrens thought about ghosts from non-Christian places. Did they think Buddhist ghost hunters were just fooling themselves?

  21. They should have a movie where a Catholic priest tries to exorcise a haunted house but fails because it’s a Chinese ghost, so he has to team up with a badass Taoist priest a la Lam Ching-ying (RIP).

  22. On the subject of non-Christian ghosts, I used to watch that series A HAUNTING (not to be confused with THE HAUNTING) from time to time, and all those were supposedly based on “real stories.” Most episodes end with a priest or Christian authority figure successfully getting rid of the demon, but every once in awhile they have a Shaman or something instead, and it seems to get the job done just as well. Almost as though what matters most is what the “victims” believe. Hmmm…

  23. Were you raised Catholic, Majestyk? I was, and though I’m an atheist now and was never much of a believer, I still find that ghost/possession movies scare me in a much different way than other types of horror films. It makes me wonder how much religion burrowed it’s way into my subconscious during my formative years.

  24. I heard that people were saying it was an aggressively Christian movie, but I didn’t notice that. There was the part where Ed asked if they were a church going family, he said no and Ed says “You might want to change that” or something. I feel like maybe there was one other mention too. Is there something else I’m forgetting? I mean, he works with the church a little, but I don’t see how it’s any more or even as much Christianity as in THE EXORCIST and similar movies.

  25. ya know, I’ve never understood why people say AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON is a comedy, what’s funny about it? that movie is fucking scary as hell

    there’s just something about that movie, the un-fucking-believably great makeup and latex effects (some of the best special effects ever put on film) combined with the early 80’s look and feel of the movie that just gets under my skin the way movies rarely do these days

    yeah, I can tell there’s some black comedy in the movie, but it’s kind of like sick and twisted comedy that only seems to make everything all the more horrifying, I’ve never laughed at AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, but I sure as hell have been fucking scared by it

    now granted, I saw it as a kid and it of course scared the shit out of me, but a lot of movies that scared me as a kid do nothing for me now, AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON is the biggest exception, I think partly because I can relate to it, it’s about being a young adult and how bizarre that can be, but primarily it’s just a creepy ass movie, any movie with a scene as terrifying as the nightmare sequence where Nazi werewolves storm into David’s home and slaughter his family before slicing his throat is not a movie I would in any way classify as a “comedy”

  26. Yeah, even John Landis doesn’t classify AMERICAN WEREWOLF as comedy, but I guess because of his background, people automatically assume it was meant to be funny, because it has SOME laughs in it (like when he steals that kid’s balloons).

    (I also always wondered for a while about John Landis’ “dark side”. From time to time he makes some pretty violent movies, like this one, INTO THE NIGHT or SUSAN’S PLAN.)

  27. Crustacean: Yeah, I was raised Catholic, now that you mention it. Not hardcore or anything. My family never went to church, but I did eight years of CCD and got confirmed and all that, at which point I used my new status as an adult in the eyes of God to ditch all that shit and become an atheist. Nobody in my family really cared, although it’s not something I talk about with my grandparents. But you’re probably right, there’s some brain residue that makes demon shit scarier to the recovering Catholic.

    Vern: There’s all the talk about God bringing them together for a reason, and the quote at the end from Ed about how God and the Devil are real and there’s a battle going on for your eternal soul. I kind of hope the Christian stuff will make church groups go out to see it. I like the idea of a bunch of people who’ve never seen a horror movie in their lives taking a double-barrelled spookablast like this to the face. They won’t know what hit them.

  28. Vern, it is great to see you love “Drag Me To Hell” as much as I do.

    I do think the morality is quite deliberate, though. Raimi puts in a lot of clues to make is buy an alternate narrative to the literal “Christine got cursed to hell and has to get out of it” one on the surface. The woman we see in the parking lot, for instance, is quite a different and more demonic entity than the pitiful begging human we see in the bank, (the woman in the bank shows no supernatural powers at all, and the thing in the parking lot can spit rulers so hard they break glass). Christine passes out just after her button is taken and the “curse” is pronounced (it’s Hungarian and means “The Devil Take You”, and she basically goes looking for the “I’ve been cursed and need to get out of it” explanation on her own, though the psychic does help feed her need to blame someone else (the old woman) for her feelings of guilt over what she did to the old woman. Christine passing blame is a constant in the film, as you noticed. What she never really does is repent or try to make amends. As her boyfriend points out at the end of the film, just before she is dragged, “I thought you could sew it back on” in reference to the button. The button represents the mar to her soul that her cruelty to the old woman represents. She could have sewn it back on, admitted the flaw in herself caused by the cruel choice she made. This is further emphasized by the scene where she fixes the printer, where her boyfriend was about to throw the whole printer out (damning it, if you will) but her removal of a small paper clip saves it. It symbolizes, along with the possibility of merely sewing the button back on, the other way Christine could have gone, instead of the extreme lenghts to which she did go. Do you notice that, in the entire film, only Christine is shown as explicitly, definitely, literally trying to damn another person to hell (the old woman in the grave, the same one she’d cruelly refused the loan to)? In the grave, she shoves the envelope in the corpse’s mouth, and it bobs up in the water, nudging up to her as if trying to give her one last chance to take back the curse, but she just screams and loses the chance, at which point she’s bonked on the head by a Cross chaped headstone, as if Heaven is rebuking her. Also, the fact that the coin ends up in the corpse’s mouth ironically indicates that the old woman is going to Heaven, since a coin in the mouth of a corpse was, in ancient times, an attempt to pay the corpse’s way into the afterlife. It tells you what is REALLY going on, as opposed to the demonic fantasy that Christine buys into and feeds.

    I like to think of the film as a demonic temptation story. A demon is attracted to Christine’s act of cruelty, and tricks her into actually daming herself to hell instead of repenting and trying to fix things, and fix her own soul. You could imagine the old woman in the parking lot is just a demonic phantasm, in the old woman’s form, or if you go the Evil Dead route, that a demon possessed the old woman and took her over … but I prefer the pure phantasm route, especially since the old woman appears in increasingly demonic and Phantasmagoric aspect during the rest of the film.

  29. Okay, I guess the Seance invalidates the theory that it’s all a hallucination, since other people are involved, but it does tell us that demonic possession is possible, since several people become demonically possessed, and end up with supernatural powers as a result. So I guess I’d go the Evil Dead route and believe that a demon possessed the little old lady at the bank and attacked Christine in the parking lot. But I’d still say it wasn’t the little old lady herself, just a demon trying to scare Christine into doing the wrong thing.

  30. Mr. Majestyk – so you live in New York and were raised Catholic, are you by any chance Italian?

  31. I moved to New York as a young man. I was born and raised in New England, where most everybody’s Catholic. My grandmother’s Italian, but my name is French. Almost ridiculously so. You’d be surprised.

  32. The ONLY GOD FORGIVES review reminded me — I noticed Ryan Gosling’s name in the credits of this; it turns out he’s the singer in a horror-/ghost-inspired band called Dead Man’s Bones that did this song, which I remember being used to pretty good effect in the movie.

  33. So the house that inspired the movie has become a tourist attraction, annoying the fuck out of the owners.


  34. Tugboat, and now Gosling is making his diretorial debut that will be an horror movie starring Christina Hendricks as lead.

  35. grimgrinningchris

    July 27th, 2013 at 4:42 pm

    Just got in from seeing this. Only my second theatre outing this year. Remind me never to go to a horror miviebin the daytime in a weekend. Fucking people bringing their children? Ugh! I already swore off ever seeing a PG-13 horror movie on opening weekend due to the damn teenagers, but figured adults wpuld at least be savvy enough to bring their kids (in droves, even) to an R rated one. No such luck.

    Anyway, very little to add to this other than pointing out that the sculpt on the “Annabelle” doll’s face looks EXACTLY like the Tiffany doll from BRIDE/SEED OF CHUCKY. Look at it again up there and tell me I’m wrong. So not only is this a doll that could only exist in a movie…but one that already DOES exist in other movies.

  36. To be fair if I ran the MPAA, I would’ve given this movie a PG-13 rating and yeah…I would consider it a family entertainment. Horror movies are an entertainment, we rare get one that’s doesn’t have R-rated content.

  37. grimgrinningchris

    July 27th, 2013 at 9:48 pm

    I guess originally Wan thought this was going to get a PG13 since there was no nudity, gore or excessive coarse language but when they came back and said it was “just too scary” for PG13 it seems like they used that as a marketing ploy.
    I don’t think it’s any scarier than many other non-R horror movies like Sthe Ring, Poltergeist, Wan’s own Insidious etc… But I definitely don’t think it’s for children.
    The R rating kept the young obnoxious teens out (at least in this second weekend Saturday afternoon screening) but the number of parents there with kids in the crying infant to constantly jabbering 10 year old range was just ridiculous. And I seriously doubt all these parents were “cool” horror fans trying to expose their kids to the genre Harry Knowles nephew style either. Get a sitter.

  38. On the plus side, the R-rating let this movie set the pointless record for “highest-grossing opening weekend for an original R-rated horror movie”.

    There was a crying baby at my first show, too. Then I saw this again tonight (as part of a double-feature with Pacific Rim at the local drive-in), and the car next to us had a crying baby again. Weird.

    asimovlives, I hadn’t heard that! I’m looking forward to it.

  39. grimgrinningchris

    July 28th, 2013 at 3:21 pm

    I’ve stayed completely away from the Pacific Rim review and comments to avoid spoilers. Can anyone throw me a one sentence spouler free review so u can decide if its worth being my third theater outing of the year?

  40. Just be aware that it’s decidedly post-action.

  41. that’s just like, your opinion man

  42. grimgrinningchris

    July 28th, 2013 at 6:13 pm

    Well those are a couple of wildly divergent statements. Ha.

    Back to THE CONJURING. Am I the only one that sees that the Annabelle doll’s face sculpt is almost exactly the same as Chucky’s lady-love?

  43. grimgrinningchris – I liked PACIFIC RIM, if because it intrigued me with the ideas of the technology and methodology behind the Jaegers and the Drifting and all that. Such imagination fires up my neurons. I liked the fights too, which weren’t too post-action IMO. Beware that its blockbuster autopilot storytelling.

    (Of course I liked PR more than MAN OF STEEL, which around these parts means my opinion is probably invalid.)

    Honestly I didn’t notice the doll resemblance.

  44. I’m a sucker for spooky ghost shit and watched much of this movie through my fingers; the old-skool camera work would have made Ti West proud I think and it really sucked me into the film’s reality, with it’s ostentatious pans and shit. But my standards for this sort of thing is low, and even movies like Insidious that I frankly consider to be shit manage to give me a good bit of mileage as far as my spookometer goes.

    But where this movie really came through for me is that it had this underlying thread of the greater Battle Between Good and Evil and what is at stake and shit. Pretty much my favorite line of dialogue in all of cinema is where Father Karras is listing for Father Merrin all the demons that Regan has been manifesting, and Merrin says “THERE IS ONLY ONE.” You’ve been all wrapped up in the special effects gnarly shit but beneath it all this is not just about horror, this is about this great epic shit of the devil and true evil and fighting the good fight and all that. The priests are these epic warriors etc.

    Well I got a little sense of that in the final exorcism scene, which is the stretch where I usually check out of these movies (they’re not trying to scare you anymore, they’re just going through the perfunctory bullshit where they save the day, and usually you’re not genuinely invested in the film’s reality to the point where you give a fuck). I like when they appeal to Lilly Tailor’s motherly nature and her beach memory and it’s what makes things right.

    Honestly when I saw all the text at the beginning about The Warrens and True Story and stuff, I’ve never heard of these peeps and I kinda assumed it was just an updated version of the sort of text you get at the beginning of a Found Footage movie, where you’re not actually supposed to believe it and the notion that it’s a true story is just for fun. That’s the spirit in which I watched it and I certainly avoided the “intellectual distance” that Vern refers to. This demon/witch shit scares the shit out of me but when I talk about my investment in it in terms of a Great Battle of Good vs Evil I mean in the same sense that you would become invested in Frodo vs Sauron, it’s just epic fantasy and I’m able to relate to it on that level and be moved and affected by it.

    I liked Mama and Evil Dead but this was the best horror movie I saw so far this year.

  45. This movie fucking stinks. Just more banging door bullshit. And it lays it on heavy with the anti-skeptic/anti-science/pro-Catholic garbage. Yuck.

    DRAG ME TO HELL gets better every time I see it.

  46. The Original Paul

    October 1st, 2015 at 3:01 pm

    Well I’m about as pro-sceptic, pro-science, anti-Catholic as you can get. And I just watched it and thought it was bloody brilliant actually.

    (Yep, answering two-year-old comments again. Oh well!)

    I’ve long since learnt to ignore the “based on a true story” thing, so this didn’t really bother me. But I think it’s easy to see as an account of what the Warrens claimed had happened, and to accept on that level. You don’t have to accept their account of what happened to be entertained by the movie. And I was. A lot.

    Like a couple of other commentators though, I have a question: what the heck was up with Annabelle? What did she even have to do with Bathsheba? I don’t see why sorting out the Bathsheba problem would have any effect on the Annabelle one. I thought that the room at the start would come into it, and it kinda does, but not in any obvious logical way. (Yeah… I know asking for “logic” in a ghost story is probably pushing it… but I at least like the world portrayed in the film to have established rules.)

    Vera Farmiga was an actress who I always thought gave solid performances when she was younger, but who never quite wowed me. But more recently it feels like she’s just got better and better at her craft. She’s fantastic in this one. I don’t think there’s a weak link in the acting stakes at all. I think I’d rate it above SINISTER, and I really liked SINISTER. It was kinda funny (funny-weird not funny-hilarious) watching this after having read the WARLOCK: ARMAGEDDON review just a few days beforehand though. I knew Vern would have something to say about yet another Satanist witch (which I’m informed by a reputable source is a complete contradiction anyway, since witchcraft is an ancient pagan religion and has nothing whatsoever to do with Satan).

    I think that this is a brilliant bit of horror if you can accept it as just the account of two people, and not as “true” “fact”. If that’s a problem for you then I can understand why you’d dislike the film. That’s not the case for me, so… yeah.

    Going from DISTRICT 13 to THE CONJURING is two really good ones in a row for me.

  47. Yeah I liked this one a lot, too. I do think it loses steam at the end when it becomes [SPOILER] a demonic possession movie, but that might just be a personal prejudice (I kind of think demon possession movies are lame).

  48. Just got back from Conjure Harder. I liked it but not as much as the first one. In my opinion the first one is a modern classic (a term I do not throw around lightly) so make of that what you will. What I feel holds this one back is that Wan and company indulge in some of things that they avoided the first go around that made me love and appreciate it. That being they go a bit more Hollywood with the effects (at times) and they throw in a mostly a subplot to try and ‘make it personal’ for the Warrens. I liked it more when they were just professionals doing a job (don’t worry, no #notmytheconjuring from me) and feel it damages the climax somewhat (I know the original they win through the power of love but I bought it, here I didn’t). As for them going more ‘Hollywood’ (ie ‘bigger’) with some of the sequences, the smaller scale simple stuff works better here. Also Marilyn Manson nun will not overtake Annabel as VIP demon in this series.

    If you did not like the first one, there is no way you’ll like this one. If you are still conflicted or againsith ‘glorifying’ the Warrens, well they play lip-service to skeptics this time but it still plays it as all true. If you had problems with them saying the Salem Witch Trials are legit well…. (maybe SPOILER?) here they dramatize a real-life mass-murder and say it was totally a demonic possession that caused him to murder his family… So yeah…

    Still, I really enjoyed and wouldn’t say no to further adventures of the Warrens, though I will say I like these movies for Wan’s direction and without him at the helm I’m going to be a little skeptical. Bring on Conjuring Side-Story: Aquaman, Based on a True Story!

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