The Conjuring Possesses the Mind With Deep Theologial Questions
When I was 12 years old, my parents bought a house that was constructed around 1900. It was an old two-story house with creaky floors and squeaky pipes; the kind of house one might assume to be haunted. Shortly after moving in, while sitting alone in one of the upstairs bedrooms, I threw a quick glance towards the door just in time to catch a figure moving out of view down the hallway. Wondering who it was, I got up and followed, only to find the corridor and subsequent rooms that branched off it to be empty.Certain I had just had an encounter with the paranormal, I shared my experience with my family and friends. From that day on, every settling of the house, howling of the wind, or flickering of a light bulb took on a new significance. It wasn’t an old foundation, a shoddy window or faulty wiring; it was confirmation of the belief that we weren’t living in the house alone. It was a fun belief that added excitement to moments that would have otherwise been fairly mundane.
As I grew older, and farther removed from that experience, I began to question whether the encounter I had that day was truly supernatural or the result of a slightly overactive imagination aided by shadows cast from an outside tree. To this day, I don’t know, but the scarcity of such tangible encounters since have me leaning towards it being the latter. I must admit, though, it is still fun to think that it was the former.
As an adult, I find that I approach the paranormal encounters of others with the same level of skepticism that I have applied to my own experiences. Unless a person can provide me with more than the run of the mill ‘the room got cold and I felt a chill on my spine’ story, I tend to think that their experience was more a product of their mind convincing them of what they want it to, rather than an actual encounter.
It’s with this backdrop that I attended the screening and subsequent press junket for the film The Conjuring (opening Friday). The Conjuring is the story of Ed and Lorraine Warren, the real life couple of Amityville fame, and their encounter with the paranormal in a farmhouse owned by the Perron family. The film turned out to be a great thrill ride that raises great theological questions about the existence of evil in the world- I’ll post a review later this week. But it was the subsequent interviews with the filmmakers that really stood out to me, as they forced me to take a new look at my presumptions of the supernatural.
While I anticipated a full tilt of stories from which the film was based on, it seems that many people involved with the making of the film found themselves having out of the ordinary encounters while in production. It began with the screenwriters, Chad and Carey Hayes, who shared the story of their phone interviews with Lorraine being continually broken up by unusual voices.
Then there was the story of the crew member who was alone in the cable room when he heard a strange noise. He looked over and saw a saucer sitting on a shelf spinning on its own. It fell to the ground and began to spin faster. The crew member promptly left the room, and refused to go back in for the rest of the shoot. Another crew member, while at a carnival with his family, decided to have his picture taken in a photo booth that supposedly captured auras. His picture came back with a dark red aura around it. He asked the writers if they would ask Lorraine what this signifies and she said, “Oh. That’s not good. It represents dark, evil, and anger.” Later, when the crew was having lunch, Lorraine looked around the room, nodded towards one of the crew members and asked, “Is it that one over there?” It was.
The brothers shared many other stories, ranging from events that happened during filming; such as Lorraine, upon meeting a family, identifying that they had recently suffered the loss of a dog- to moments of supernatural occurrence in their own lives; one of the brothers awoke one night to find a short balding man standing in his room. The man disappeared. A few days later he learned of a now deceased short balding man who used to live in the room and was said to haunt the place.
Most of what was shared could possibly be dismissed as isolated coincidences and the same overactive imagination I experienced in the old house, until Vera Farmiga sat down and shared what happened to her the night she began to read the script. “I went over to my computer and there were these claw marks across my screen”. By itself, it may be considered to be nothing more than an isolated oddity with a simple but unknown explanation, but taken into consideration with what she experienced the morning after wrapping the shoot, it gives serious reason to pause.
“I flew home from North Carolina where we filmed. The next morning I woke up in my own bed and the same claw marks appeared on my thigh,” said Ms. Farmiga. She then pulled out her iPhone and scrolled through her pictures until she landed on a picture that was clearly three rather harsh looking scratches on the skin of the thigh.
Was the crew under some sort of demonic attack as they tried to make this film? Or did they give more credibility to the seemingly innocuous oddities that occur from time to time in life, maybe even sensationalizing them in the retelling, knowing that it’s the behind the scenes stories that often drum up the most publicity for a film? The skeptic in me leans towards the latter; it is Hollywood, after all, where the almighty dollar rules.
But the part of me that knows there is much in this world that is beyond comprehension, can’t help but wonder if there were greater forces at work. When asked how they are able to work around such dark subject matter and not allow it to affect their personal life, the writers immediately alluded to their faith. “We both have a lot of faith. We believe in God… for protection. Because of that, we don’t feel threatened.”
The cast themselves seemed to be split on whether or not they believed there is evil at work in the world, or just people that act out in evil ways, but they all seemed to be in agreement on one thing: the way to overcome the “darkness” is by choosing “light” and love. The film, which focuses on the importance of family and togetherness, drives this message home clearly. It is a message that both a skeptic and a believer can get behind.