Implying a movie is based on a true story adds a certain element of appeal to it that allows the imaginations of the viewers to wander beyond the movie itself to “can you imagine” territories.
Movies like the Blair Witch Project, which used the “found footage” video style, tampered with that essence to a degree even though therein existed a land of wonder, it was a style quick to be overdone.
However, the phrase “based on a true story” still packs a lot of punch. Even when the film uttering the phrase in its opening follows the standard fare of horror movies that deal with the supernatural and paranormal, with a smidgen of exorcism, curiosity always sets in.
We’re fascinated with the paranormal, even if we don’t belief in it. That small part of our minds can’t help but wonder. Director James Wan takes this and uses it to his advantage to transform a segment of the lives of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) into a larger than life situation involving a family in an Amityville-like scene.
The true story of Ed and Lorraine Warren is that they were the ones who investigated the house that would later be transformed into several stories, movies and documentaries, including the Amityville Horror ones.
The case investigated in The Conjuring took place before the one in Amityville at a farmhouse in Harrisville, Rhode Island, 1971, where a couple (played by Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor) and their five young girls have just moved in. Shortly after, they begin to experience unexplainable occurrences that cause Carolyn (Taylor) to contact the Warrens. Through the use of surveillance equipment, checking the house’s records and Lorraine’s senses, they are able to loosely pinpoint what is happening.
Much of the scares in The Conjuring rely a lot on implication and expectation. There were a few instances when something more visual was presented to us in the way of a demonic girl or woman, or timid boy.
These methods are traditional for the genre and as such, it’s a case of you see one, you’ve seen em all. But The Conjuring goes further than most with its development and acting.
We’re first introduced to the Warrens giving a lecture on their paranormal experiences. They’re humble. They acknowledge their critics through self-deprecation but they remain focused. The Perron family, likewise, show innocence and a desire to get by in their new home.
The acting is strong as we get a sense for who these people are, both collectively and individually. Had the setting been different, this could have been a drama rather than a horror and they would have been as convincing.
Vera Farmiga as Lorraine Warren is the highlighted role as she is the one with the troubled past experience and thus the more vulnerable who willingly puts herself at stake in order to approach the situation face-on. This determination is what we see and what pushes The Conjuring ahead of its class.