The episode of Deconstructing… covering The Conjuring was Written, Edited, and Narrated by Kier Gomes, Produced by Tyler Nichols and John Fallon, and Executive Produced by Berge Garabedian.
What do you think about cinematic universes? While mega franchise worlds like the MCU certainly seem to overshadow smaller connected universes like the View Askewniverse, there certainly is a mix of positives and negatives within these shared continuities. Among the horror genre’s cinematic universes are movies like Freddy vs. Jason, where two large franchises crossed over into one… interesting movie? Or how about Spiral: From the Book of Saw, where the events of the Saw franchise exist, but a new serial killer is on the rise. And of course, there is the extensive and ongoing mixed bag of scares and screams that is The Conjuring Universe. The Warren family is practically a goldmine for source material that is sure to set you on edge. The famous New England couple rose to prominence as paranormal investigators in the 1950s. One of their most documented and famous cases was of course the Amityville murders of the 1970s. Being that these two were able to maintain a career in this particular field for so long, it’s safe to say that between Ed and Loraine Warren and their many cases… They have seen some shit. In today’s episode, we’re going to go crawling back to one of my favorite horror directors and breaking down potentially his most monumental horror film yet. A film that not only delivered on the very best of James Wan’s creative sensibilities, but also kicked off a franchise that eventually became the most prominent interconnected cinematic universe in all of modern horror. But what’s so special about this film? Well, find out in today’s episode when we watch 2013’s The Conjuring (watch it HERE) and break down why we still want to see the adventures of Ed and Loraine Warren on the big screen. I’m Kier with JoBlo Horror, and you’re watching Deconstructing.
The Conjuring is a paranormal horror film directed by James Wan and written by Chad and Carey Hays. The movie follows the Warren family as they travel to Rhode Island to help a family whose new home seems to be plagued with evil that has its sights set on the house’s residents. Along the way we’re in for frightening apparitions, wonderful performances, and of course some of those classic James Wan-isms that make it shine. As usual, we’re going to break down the film into our key categories. First, we’re going to talk about the film’s origin- which will be quite interesting considering that the movie is based on REAL people. Then we’re going to move onto the movie’s legacy, where we discuss the lasting impact the film has had on the genre and the franchise it spawned. Then we’ll lighten it up with some trivia where I give you some fun behind the scenes facts to take with you, and then we close it all off by talking about the movie’s X-factor, where I zoom in and look for the one thing that takes The Conjuring from being just another decent horror movie, to being a genuine classic that’s well worth its weight in holy water.
So, if you’re ready then keep your backs to the wall and don’t forget to drop a like on the video. And let’s hit play on The Conjuring.
Now, when it comes to the origin of this movie, it’s only right to start with the famous couple that it’s based on. Ed and Loraine Warren were both raised Catholic and remained dedicated to the church for their entire lives. They were married in 1945 and both held their own unique talents when it comes to their ties to the paranormal. Ed was known as a “demonologist” who claimed to have a profound and undeniable knowledge of the beyond. Loraine was a clairvoyant who claimed to be able to see and communicate with ghosts. Together, the couple worked on cases that made headlines for decades; such as the Annabelle doll possession, Amityville, the Perron Family (who this video is about), as well as Union Cemetery and the Enfield Poltergeist. Like I said, they were a goldmine for spookiness.
In the late 90s and early 2000s, a writer named Tony DeRosa-Grund had the idea to write a story about the Perron Family haunting. The story, of course, happened in real life but DeRosa-Grund added some embellishments to make the script more scary. DeRosa-Grund’s original script was written from the perspective of the Perron family, mainly the parents. After years of pitching the script and having no luck getting it made, producer Peter Safran joined the party and offered to hire more writers to punch up the script. That’s where Chad and Carey Hayes enter the picture. They overhauled the script keeping the main storyline but changing some aspects, cutting other aspects out, and most importantly, changing the story’s perspective from the Perron family to the Warrens.
Lorraine Warren was still alive when this film was going into development which allowed the writers to interview her multiple times throughout the process of developing the script. The crew also had access to Ed Warren’s personal tapes which provided case notes and details directly from the events. By 2009, the script was ready and pre-production kicked off. James Wan was the first and only director to be attached to the project and for obvious reason, he was in the midst of a very impressive career. Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor were cast as the Warrens and The Perrons, and Warner Bros was set to roll cameras on their movie, which had a working title of “The Warren Files”.
Lorraine Warren not only consulted on the script, but she also consulted on the set. While filming, Vera Farmiga spent time with Lorraine in order to help her find the truth of the character. She quotes: “I just wanted to absorb her essence. I wanted to see the details, she has such mad style. I just wanted to see – the way she communicates with her hands, these gestures, her smile, how she moves through space.”
Now, what can I say about the movie’s legacy? This movie is remembered fondly as a very strong start to a very large franchise. Just looking at its own merits, this movie stands out for its incredible visual style, solid storytelling, and even its striking and haunting soundtrack and score by Insidious composer, Joseph Bishara. The movie’s marketing was also interesting with Warner Bros really pushing the “Based on a true story” angle. Something later explained to be LOOSELY based on a true story. I mean… duh.
There’s also a lot that can be said for the performances in this film. Vera Farmiga is easily one of the most talented actors in this entire franchise and Patrick Wilson is no stranger to Wan’s particular style of horror. Ron Livingston does a wonderful job as usual as the head of the Perron household. He plays the role very well and when things start to get spooky- he really gets a chance to show some range. It is far and away the best supporting role he’s played in years.
The Conjuring managed to gross a total of nearly $300 Million on its limited budget of only $20 Million. This made the film a shoo-in for a sequel which excited the mass amounts of people who have now gotten on the Warren bandwagon. Critically, the film was well received and still holds a respectable amount of praise from film critics across the world. I know some people personally who consider this the greatest horror film ever made.
On its own, this movie will always be remembered for being genuinely frightening. In fact, despite having minimal blood and violence and mostly clean language, the film was given an R rating by the MPAA for being “just too scary”. The scenes that contain jump scares are mostly effective with only a few really falling flat and this was during a time when audiences weren’t bored of the piano strike cliches that we’re currently criticizing The Nun 2 for. This movie uses our investment in seeing if Ed and Lorraine are for real or full of shit to keep us invested in everything we see, and it just works. In fact, the real legacy this movie holds are in the fact from this terrifying first entry came a franchise and shared universe that includes 2 direct sequels, and two spin off franchises with the Annabelle trilogy and the The Nun series. Not to mention the upcoming The Conjuring: Last Rites and a rumored TV series on HBO. It’s safe to say that we have not seen the last of these movies or the characters they’ve made famous.
With Annabelle being a mostly impressive trilogy, I recall thinking this cinematic universe was off to the best possible start. Then came The Nun, which I think was much more effective as a cameo in The Conjuring 2, and then there was that forgotten Curse of La Llorona film that has since been shunned by the studio and fans of the franchise. I thought some of the scenes in that movie were actually pretty good, but in general it was simply just a forgettable movie. However, the first sequel to this movie, The Conjuring 2, is my favorite of the main series. I didn’t love The Devil Made Me Do It but I must applaud it for some of the bolder elements they worked in. But we know one thing is for sure, this movie and the incredible filmmakers and actors in it, are all good enough to create a run of 9 movies in the last 10 years.
Want to know something interesting? The man with fire on his face from Insidious, you know, the main monster- he’s played by composer Joseph Bishara who also provided the musical score for this movie. His skills at being creepy are multi-faceted in that he scares the shit of us as a monster with fuzzy ankles, and as a composer with his intense and swelling compositions. You go, Joe!
And before we move on to the movie’s X-Factor and talk about why we REALLY love this movie- let’s see if you can answer this question:
In the real story, how many documented deaths took place at the Perron residence before the family lived there?
Comment your answers down below!
And just like that, here we are at the X-Factor. This segment on the show is sometimes easy and sometimes very difficult because for the most part everything that deserves praise in a movie becomes repetitive at a certain point. It would be very easy for me to praise the classic 1970s horror style that James Wan perfectly captured in every frame, and I could go on for hours about how much this movie inspired the next generation of horror blockbusters. I could (and have strongly considered) making this final segment all about the character of Annabelle and how her brief appearance in this movie is what essentially laid the groundwork for the Conjuring Universe at large. Truthfully, all those things deserve to be praised as the sum of their value is worth more than the individual element, these things work best when their served together with finesse and balance. And in that, this movie certainly delivers. But, to me, it’s almost too easy to do that and you can probably find that anywhere or have already thought it yourself.
Instead, I want to spend the remaining minutes of our show discussing the incredible amount of luck and dare I say divine intervention that it took to get this movie where it is today. The true secret sauce that separates this movie from good and great. And that is, Lorraine Warren. Like, the REAL Lorraine Warren. See, this movie is good and that doesn’t change no matter if it’s real or not. It works on all the levels I mentioned before, but so do MANY of James Wan’s films and not every one of them has reached this level of acclaim and profit. But having the opportunity to market the movie as a true story, and then to have that message backed by the ACTUAL person who was involved in the making of it- that is what drove this movie into the stratosphere. Having Lorraine Warren there added credibility to the flights. Now, we all know that you’re not walking around seeing ghosts and fighting demons in your kitchen, but in a way, that doesn’t matter. You automatically are open to the idea that someone experienced something that is partially being shown on screen. You know that regardless of what your logic is actually telling you- some of what you’re seeing, was real to someone.
The thing that I find myself thinking when I watch this movie is really that had Lorraine Warren not consulted on this film, I wouldn’t have expected any of it to be anything even close to factual. But thanks to that one thing, that one x-factor, there will always be a little be that one shred of doubt that conjures my deepest fears.
A couple of the previous episodes of Deconstructing… can be seen below,. To see more episodes, and to check out our other shows, head over to the JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channel – and subscribe while you’re there!