If you are familiar with paranormal research, then you know Ed and Lorraine Warren. The Conjuring is as much their bio as it is a haunted house story set before they gained notoriety as the investigating couple who “exposed,” “revealed” or “fabricated” the Amityville, Long Island haunting where Ronald DiFeo murdered his family.
That case was a setback for those paranormal researchers hoping for a more scientific acceptance in this field who felt Ed Warren and the later property owner concocted much of the supernatural goings on. Ed, as a ghost investigator, provided the bridge between those who presented ectoplasmic photographs as evidence of the existence of otherworldly apparitions, and the modern day technicians using EMF devices and laser grids to detect spirits.
Ed Warren carried a parabolic dish, reel-to-reel recorder and was well aware that objects could trigger activity. The Conjuring treats him fairly as a pioneering figure in studying the phenomenon.
Lorraine Warren, however, is another matter altogether.
She appears in the front row, lower left corner onscreen, during one of Patrick Wilson’s lectures. Wilson plays Ed. He was also in Insidious, another haunted house flick. Vera Farmiga portrays Lorraine, who’s slightly out-of-sync even for 1971, dressed in high-neck “Shaker-style” clothing. Lorraine brings her “psychic” abilities to bear on their investigations, meaning she “feels” her way around good and evil!
To believe in God is to accept that the supernatural exists, which in turn means there is a good and and evil at play here. It also means, then, that there are absolutes, which requires moral certitude. In biblical terms, for a “psychic” (which is the modern day equivalent of a seer or prophet) to be effective, her observations must be 100% accurate.
Lorraine foresees her daughter underwater. Biblical prophets are always accurate. She’s not.
If you’ve watched her on Paranormal State, she doesn’t come in to debunk, even though in The Conjuring she says that most reports of hauntings prove to be natural explanations. That’s not what happens on TV!
When it’s learned that the Perron family is experiencing strange poltergeist activity, and they aren’t practicing believers, Ed tells them to “re-think” their beliefs in light of recent happenings. Sorry, but the Warrens are devout Catholics, and in interviews Lorraine says emphatically that only Jesus Christ can protect one from the Devil. It’s faith that ousts demons, not chants nor sacraments. And she’s right! “Re-thinking beliefs” won’t cut it, and is put into the movie to appease non-Christians!
Instead of exalting the religious aspects of this case, The Conjuring has more in common with Johnny Guitar because it comes down to a conflict between matriarchs: Lorraine and Carolyn Perron (Lili Taylor) as mothers struggling against unholy forces.
And Taylor more than makes up for her rather lackluster performance in what is, in my opinion, the worst remake in the history of cinema: 1999’s Jan de Bont film The Haunting! Obviously getting bad direction for reacting to “green screen” special effects, a character gets beheaded and Taylor responds by saying, “Oh, no!”
The Conjuring demands her physical depth to reflects her emotional state since she’s the recipient of most of the phenomena. Personally, my favorite scenes involve Lili and a vintage wardrobe, only this one is far removed as a passage to Narnia!
It’s not that The Conjuring is a “supposed” real story, nor that it’s any more frightening than any other recent haunted house story, but it examines the foundation of modern day ghost hunting as detective work rather than religious affirmation. Still a good adage to follow is that if you don’t know what you’re messing with, don’t treat it as a “ghost party” – people have been affected adversely. Or as Tony Orlando & Dawn put it, “knock three times on the ceiling if you want me,” i.e. the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.