July 31, 2013 -- I am not a big fan of horror movies. Most of them are bad, but it turns out this is one of the better ones. It is creepy, scary and well-constructed.
The only problem I had with the movie is that it kept trying to convince me that undocumented events actually happened. The wild stuff in the film, like people levitating, has never been documented, and neither has most kinds of alleged paranormal phenomenon. Trying to find out what really happened is near impossible because it seems like the witnesses who are talking are also trying to make money off this story, so they have incentives to sensationalize events.
The film is based on the story of the Perron family (Roger and Carolyn Perron and children) who bought an allegedly haunted house on the Arnold Estate near Harrisville, Rhode Island in 1970. One of the Perron's five daughters, Andrea, wrote a book about the family's experiences in the haunted house called “House of Darkness, House of Light.” Andrea said she was saddened by the family's decision to sell the house. She loved it. If the family's experience was anything like the movie, they would have moved out of that place immediately and never looked back.
In the movie, Roger and Carolyn Perron are played by Ron Livingston (“The Odd Life of Timothy Green”) and Lilli Taylor (“Public Enemies”). When strange events start happening in the house, the Perrons call in famed paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, played by Patrick Wilson of “Watchmen” and Vera Farmiga of “Up in the Air.”
The Warrens are famous for their investigation of another haunted house in Amityville, New York. You guessed it, that haunted house led to a whole series of films, starting with “The Amityville Horror” in 1979. While the Warrens say the Amityville story is true, others say it was a hoax. The Amityville stories resulted in several lawsuits.
The Warrens arrive with a truck load of equipment to record the paranormal events in the house. The idea is that if they can prove the house is possessed by demons, the Catholic Church can be persuaded to authorize a house exorcism. Perron says he thought that exorcisms are only performed on people. That's what I thought too. Well, we all learned something here.
The film turns into a poor relative of the king of all horror movies, “The Exorcist,” complete with levitation and vomiting. An exorcism is performed, but not on the house, and not by a priest. The historic witches of Salem, Massachusetts are dragged into the story as well, even though their original guilty convictions were overturned hundreds of years ago.
With all those kids in the movie you didn't really expect it to avoid the old ploy of putting kids in danger. The story does put kids in mortal danger. The Warrens have a room in their house (not the haunted house) where they keep objects that have been possessed by demons. A child gets into the room and is chased by one of the cursed objects. This reminded me of the old TV show “Friday the 13th: The Series” about the owners of an antique store full of cursed items. At the haunted Rhode Island Perron home, the children there are also targets of demons who want to kill them. Pretty dark stuff.
The film is creepy and scary, but to what extent depends on whether or not you believe in this kind of thing. If you believe in haunted houses and demonic possession, then it will be much scarier for you. Maybe that's why the film tries so hard to convince you the story is real. I didn't believe the story, as depicted, is what really happened. I found the truth embellished far beyond belief here. This is a very tall tale, but I thought it was a pretty effective horror movie, nonetheless. This film rates a B.
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