Susan Granger's review of 'The Conjuring'
Living in Fairfield County, there are few people who haven't heard of Ed and Lorraine Warren, the renowned "Amityville" demonologists who, back in 1952, founded the New England Society for Psychic Research. Over the years, they've assembled an Occult Museum at their home in Monroe, Conn., housing a collection of "dangerous" artifacts connected to black witchcraft, sorcery and curses.
Based on a true story about one of their earlier exploits,
the film begins with the Annabel doll, a conduit for malevolent forces. After Roger (Ron Livingston) and Carolyn (Lili Taylor) Perron bought an old, secluded farmhouse in Harrisville, R.I., in 1971, they and their five young daughters
were terrorized by bizarre, supernatural encounters with a dark, inhuman presence -- until they sought help from paranormal investigators Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga), who explained the three demonic stages: infestation, oppression and possession.
Aptly directed by James Wan ("Insidious," "Saw") from a somewhat disjointed screenplay by Chad Hayes and Carey W. Hayes ("The Reaping"), there are horrifying night terrors and a suspenseful investigation into the creepy, creaking cellar, inexplicably using flickering matches instead of flashlights -- until the obligatory exorcism in which Taylor turns into Linda Blair, spewing blood and invectives while suspended, upside down, from the ceiling as "The Birds" circle menacingly outside.
FYI: For almost 50 years, the deeply religious Warrens have been obsessed with ghost hunting and filming poltergeists, often in coordination with members of the clergy. A World War II Navy veteran and former police officer, Ed led the investigations, working with Lorraine, a light trance medium who reportedly perceives spirits that exist on a different vibrational field. Their work was the basis for the TV movie "The Haunting" (1991) and the feature film "The Haunting in Connecticut" (2009). Ed died in 2006. For more about the Warrens, go to www.ghostvillage.com/legends/warrens.shtml
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "The Conjuring" is a silly, scary 6. But I'll bet you'll have second thoughts if anyone suggests playing Hide 'n' Clap after seeing this horror thriller.