Okay, so you already saw "The Purge" and you think you're all horror-ed out for the summer, but guess what? Your frightmare has just begun, because "The Conjuring" is gonna make "The Purge" look like "The Pfffft, Whatever."
"Saw" and "Insidious" madman James Wan directs this deceptively simple haunted houser, based on the case files of "legit" demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren. Their investigations into the Perron family haunting will have you leaping out of your seat and grabbing the nearest boyfriend/ girlfriend/ stranger in terror.
Here are nine specific bits o' "The Conjuring" terror you can anticipate but never escape.
1. Annabelle Doll
Imagine the China Girl from "Oz the Great and Powerful" gone full-on evil and you have Annabelle Doll, the newest addition to director James Wan's family after the Billy puppets in "Saw" and "Dead Silence." Wan begins the movie with a real-life case history surrounding Annabelle, although in real life the possessed plaything was merely a regular ol' Raggedy Ann as opposed to the nightmare-inducing thing made for "The Conjuring." In interest of full disclosure, the author of this article received a bona fide Annabelle Doll in the mail from Warner Bros, and the experience of just seeing her face when opening the package was f**king terrifying. See below...
2. The Warrens
As played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga in the movie, Ed and Lorraine Warren are a married couple who investigate ghosts, hauntings and possessions, which is basically every 10-year-old boy's fantasy of what marriage will be like. Ed is the mouthpiece of the two, a Navy/police vet with a very pragmatic outlook, while Lorraine is the psychic medium who does the "I see dead people" thing. These two happen to be based on an actual Ed and Lorraine, who for decades were two of America's top paranormal investigators, founding the New England Society for Psychic Research and the Warren Occult Museum. Their actual cases include the original "Amityville Horror" as well as the events of "The Conjuring" involving the Perrons.
3. The Perron Case
Roger and Carolyn Perron (played by Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor in the film) moved their large family to a secluded farmhouse in the small country town of Harrisville, Rhode Island in the winter of 1970 and proceeded to get haunted like nobody's business. The culprit: Bathsheba Sherman, a suspected witch who died on the property in the mid-1800s. "There is no conceivable way to condense what we as a family endured in the farmhouse into a two-hour motion picture," Roger and Carolyn's daughter Andrea Perron wrote to Horror-Movies, "but James Wan captured the essence of it … it is a fair reflection of the chaos and danger we faced at the farm."
4. Child Endangerment Times Five
The Perrons had five, count 'em, five daughters, which is some sort of chromosomal miracle. What's not so miraculous is the all-out horror they all experience at the hands of Bathsheba's spirit … and the spirits of her victims! There's leg-pulling, spontaneous appearances, knocking, picture frames knocked off walls ... and that's just for starters. Trust us when we tell you these kids are in MORTAL DANGER.
5. The Clapping Game
At last year's New York Comic-Con attendees were treated to a full scene from the picture: the hand clap game scene. It's no wonder Warner Bros. chose this to represent the film, because it's creepy as all get-out. This variation on hide and seek/Marco Polo involves Lili Taylor being blindfolded while her kids scurry off to the far corners of the house. Lili calls out for the girls to clap so she can find them, but what is she to make of the fact that there's clapping in the closet but no girls in there? AHHH!! It gets worse, see the movie, etc.
6. That Old Timey Creepy
"The Conjuring" is every bit a slow-burn tribute to the family poltergeist movies of the '70s, specifically "The Amityville Horror" (another case from the Warren files) and "Burnt Offerings." James Wan has had success in the past with low-budget scare pictures but here proves he is a real-deal filmmaker, building tension and character in equal measure until you are very invested in both the Perrons' and the Warrens' survival. Hopefully he can show a scary Vin Diesel doll when he makes "Fast & Furious 7" next year.
7. Secular Humanists Beware
A crucial plot point involves the Perron family being a bunch of godless heathens. Okay, not exactly heathens, but definitely non-church-going folk who never had their kids baptized, which later becomes a whole huge bureaucratic loophole to get around in order for them to get a damn priest to come exorcise the place. This gives the whole thing an extra layer of accessibility, since statistically a large portion of the audience for these films has to be secular. That's right, athiests, Bathsheba could get you, too!
8. Exorcism! Exorcism! Exorcism!
It's not much of a spoiler to tell you that one of the seven members of the Perron family gets possessed by an evil spirit in this movie. There's a college lecture scene at the very front of "The Conjuring" where Patrick Wilson literally spells out the three tenets of possession, so yeah, that info might come in handy later. The actual scene in question towards the climax of the film is white-knuckle to say say the least, staged brilliantly by the filmmakers and acted with frightening conviction by … well, we're not telling.
9. Yes, There Will Be More
There are several crucial scenes in the Warrens' basement which is chock-o-block full of occult artifacts from their many years on the demon beat. When we talked to her for the press day, Vera Farmiga confirmed that "contractually they've got me for at least another." We also got to ask the now 86-year-old Lorraine Warren (Ed passed away in 2006) which of her many other cases she would like to see form the basis of "The Conjuring 2" and she expressed a desire to see the series go international:
"We researched in all countries," said Lorraine, "and I think something from England would be very, very good. When we were in Japan investigating hauntings my husband's health was very bad. I really didn't know how bad it was until we got home. He would stay in a hotel and I would go with these Japanese people to these hauntings that were going on. Don't ask me how I do it because I don't know, I don't have the answers, but I could communicate. I don't speak the language. I did not have a translator! Even Ed would say, 'I don't know how you were able to do that.'"