Has it gone ten years since the release of this modern haunted house classic already? Oh my. Ed and Lorraine Warren are more commonly known now than ever, but here’s a quick summary of this oddly fascinating and charming couple.
Ed Warren was a self taught demonologist and his wife Lorraine was a clairvoyant who could “read” the human aura. Both were hardcore Christians. After they founded the New England Society for Psychic Research in 1952, the oldest ghost hunting group in New England, they claimed to investigate over 10,000 cases of paranormal and demonic activity over the course of four decades. Most of them were debunked while some required assistance from the Catholic Church to perform exorcisms.
Lorraine was the more quiet one (for lack of a better term), whereas Ed never seemed to have a filter and would claim bizarre things such as:
– I know sorcerers who have never worked a day in their life, yet they’re financially well-off. For them, everything falls into place. Life is easy; good things always come their way. They have no troubles at all. Money finds them. Why? Because they’ve made a metaphysical arrangement and work in league with the demonic. –
This is a real quote from the book The Demonologist: The Extraordinary Career of Ed and Lorraine Warren. So it’s fair to say that our dear uncle Ed surely had some screws loose on his top floor. But I don’t doubt that he was harmless like a soft teddybear as he and Lorraine were deeply devoted to each other. Aww.
They’ve gotten several books written about them, such as The Amityville Horror, In a Dark Place (The Haunting in Connecticut), Satan’s Harvest (Maurice “Frenchie” Theriault) and The Haunted (The Smurl family). The latter was already adapted in 1991 as an obscure movie made for TV. Great books, by the way, but they work more as horror fiction than they do as “documentaries”, so keep that in mind if you’d like to read them. I was hoping one of the installments in the Conjuring franchise would be about Maurice Theriault, based on Satan’s Harvest, which we also see some glimpses of during Ed and Lorraine’s classes in the first movie. The mix of grim and tragic drama with horror would be perfect here, but since they already have already completely butchered Maurice’s character arc in the two Nun films, it’s not likely to happen. Bummer.
Ed died back in 2006 at the age of 79, while Lorraine kept fighting the good fight until she met her maker in 2019 at the age of 92. Their son-in-law Tony Spera kept their legacy alive for a while with their famous Warren Occult Museum (which is now permanently closed) and was alongside with Lorraine a consultant on the two first Conjuring films. He now runs the Official Ed and Lorraine Warren Channel where he has given some lectures on ghost hunting to show people like Zak Bagans how you really do it. He was also one of the producers of the Netflix reality series 28 Days Haunted, a complete fake amateurish nothingburger of a show yet still the most unintentionally batshit-funny thing I’ve ever seen in the ghost hunting genre.
One of their more known cases of the Warrens was with the Perron family, who lived in an ancient farmhouse in Harrisville, Rhode Island from 1970 to 1980. The house was built in 1736 and surrounded by a big dark cloud of terrifying rumors that several suicides took place there throughout many years. The house was also haunted by an evil paranormal entity by the name Bathsheba Thayer Sherman who terrorized the family over the whole decade they lived there where Ed and Lorraine visited regularly to bless them. The mother of the family, Carilyn Perron, believed that Batsheba was jealous of her, which opened an iceberg of conspiracies, one of which that she once upon a time was an evil witch after allegedly a baby had died whom she was babysitting. The legend says that a sewing needle was found in the baby’s dead body. The only official documents we can dig up from this Bathsheba is that she lived a long life from 1812 to 1885 as a wife and mother.
The rest is based on urban legends, rumors, myths, dark morbid fairytales and totally fabricated boolshit. In other words: there’s no documents of her being an evil satanic witch that drank infant blood and threw babies in the fireplace before she cursed everyone who dared to take her land and hang herself on a tree branch outside her house three past midnight. But that’s at least what the movie and the oldest daughter Andrea Perron want us to believe, who was a part of the promotion of the film and also has written a series of self-published books based on the whole alleged experience. And there were sure some airheads who actually believed it all. Sherman’s gravestone in Harrisville Cemetery was vandalized several times after the release of The Conjuring, and was broken to pieces in 2016. It has been fixed since. If Bathsheba had lived during the more recent decades, it’s not unlikely that some relatives would sue Warner Brothers for pure defamation.
Other “victims” of the release of the film were none other than the owners who have lived in the real conjuring house since 1987, seven years after the Perrons moved out. The big fat irony is that the couple who took over the house after the Perrons have never experienced any paranormal activity, but were instead haunted by curious trespassers on a daily basis after the release of the film. It’s not far from the same story with the owners of the Amityville house who had to remove the two distinct and iconic “eye windows” so no one would recognize the house. The no trespassers signs on the property didn’t help much either. It got to the point where they sued Warner Brothers, a case that didn’t go anywhere. After they eventually moved out, a young couple bought the house in 2019, and they knew exactly what they moved into. They launched the property into a lucrative business to allow investigations and day tours. A documentary called The Harrisville Haunting: The Real Conjuring House was made, and the place is now a landmark tourist attraction. G r o o v y.
Anyway … the movie:
After the opening with a quick introduction of Ed and Lorraine Warren and their case with the Annabelle doll, the film starts off like a classic episode of the TV-series A Haunting where the Perron family (Roger and Carolyn with their five daughters) is moving into their new house in the quiet and idyllic countryside in Harrisville, Rhode Island. It’s the summer of 1971 and everyone is so happy and excited about their new home, except for their dog Sadie, who refuses to enter the house. First red flag. After some exploring, they see that the door to the cellar is boarded. Second red flag. The cellar is creepy. Third red flag. They’re ready to spend the first night in the house and the dog still refuses to be inside. Fourth red flag. Next day, Carolyn wakes up with bruises on her leg. Fifth red flag. The toilet in the house doesn’t work. Sixth red flag. One of the kids’ bedrooms smells like someone had died there. Seventh red flag. All the clocks in the house stop ticking around three past midnight. Eighth red flag. The house is freezing. Ninth red flag. They find the dog dead outside the house. Tenth red fla…they’re fucked!
It doesn’t get more peaceful from here on and after the paranormal activities reach the breaking point when an angry, demonic, scary-looking witch (yeah, guess who) pops up from nowhere like a deranged ninja-monkey to attack the kids, it’s time to call you-know-who.
On the surface, there isn’t anything new and groundbreaking about The Conjuring, not even back in 2013, other than it’s based on Ed and Lorrie Warren, which at least gives it a unique take. As a ghost story, it’s very formulaic and James Wan with his two screenwriters doesn’t re-invent the wheel, but – most of us knew already then that Wan was a master of building up tension and creating some great, claustrophobic suspense that eventually reach the climax in full rollercoaster mode. And that’s even more than I expect from a film like this. A big plus is that he worked with the same crew from the first Insidious movie to create a haunting atmosphere only with the set-design. The whole house here looks cursed, all from the old, dusty organ in the cellar to a certain cabinet wardrobe and the walls themselves. I would love to move in by a heartbeat.
Both Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as Ed and Lorraine is a perfect match and they take their roles pretty seriously. Their chemistry really sparks where I have no doubt that they love each other like two college teens. Joey King stands out among the six child actors and I still, ten years later, believe her when she says that “someone is behind the door”, yet I’m also still asking “what is…”. Music composer Joesph Bishara, who also played the lipstick-face demon in Insidious, is terrifying behind the Bathsheba make-up, and her introduction in the film has become a really classic moment by itself. I have some very fond memories by watching this in a packed movie theater twice as people were screaming their lungs off. Bishara’s distinct soundtrack with the mix of strings, brass, woodwinds, percussion, electronic instruments and more also amps up the mood. Some clever jump-scare here as well. Clap-clap.
The Conjuring became a hUUUge financial success, both praised by the critics and audiences and sat the gold-standard for modern haunted house films. A formula that countless of directors have tried to copy but mostly failed time after time. The Neverending Amityville Franchise Inc. is always hiring directors though. Instead of rehashing sequels we got The Conjuring Universe with spin-offs like the pretty decent trilogy with the Annabelle doll and the pretty lousy Nun films which I hope we’ve seen the last of. Three years later James Wan followed-up with the sequel The Conjuring 2.
Director: James Wan
Writers: Chad Hayes, Carey W. Hayes
Country & year: US, 2013
Actors: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Lili Taylor, Ron Livingston, Shanley Caswell, Hayley McFarland, Joey King, Mackenzie Foy, Kyla Deaver, Shannon Kook, John Brotherton, Sterling Jerins, Joseph Bishara