Goosebumps. Loss of breath. A need to draw your limbs in and make your body as small as possible. A little sinking of the self that starts with your throat and presses into your stomach.
This is fear. The feeling of terror we horror buffs hope for each time we buy a ticket to a new film promising thrills and chills. Like any other addict, we keep signing up, knowing fullfillment of that true rush we long for will be few and far between. This is due in part to desensitization, but also to the lack of truly frightening films.
Along comes The Conjuring. I have said it before, scary is best accomplished with a hint and true horror holds a bit of sorrow. The Conjuring finds that magic balance of the two that is able to draw the audience in, make them care enough for the characters that we can not look away, and proceeds to scare us to our core. I was terrified.
The Conjuring moves subtly through the tale of the Perrons, their life in a house haunted by true evil, and the Warren family that came to save them. We see enough of the family before their lives are upended to adore the loving relationship they share. We want to hold them when the first moments of fright begin to descend, we can’t look away, we certainly can’t leave them alone when the true terror takes hold.
This is the movie we horror fans wait for. This is exactly why they need to stop with the remakes. The Conjuring takes place in the 70s and is filmed as such. There is very little gore. No over-the-top boogeyman to cause us to roll our eyes in disbelief of it all. There is just a genuine fear of something we don’t understand, but recognize as dangerous, reaching out to destroy the things we all want in our homes: health, freedom, and love. Nothing is sacred or untouchable to the evil portrayed in this film. We do not feel safe even watching it.
Along with that fear came sorrow. From all accounts, this is a story based on true events. I’m not sure how a person could enjoy horror if they did not believe in the supernatural. I personally don’t rule out anything. That belief brings me close to the horror, but also to the absolute heartbreak this family had to feel. here were many portions where I found myself crying for the Perrons (especially the mother Carolyn). To realize this was their life, they had to experience these events, and also watch them happen to their loved ones is absolutely wrenching to acknowledge.
The last time I was in an audience when everybody jumped at the same points in the film was when The Exorcist returned to theaters in 2000. Several times during The Conjuring the entire audience jumped and gasped at the same time. We felt for these characters. WE WERE THERE with them.