A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Conjuring is a truly scary horror movie that's based on a true story about a haunted house, a demon possession, and an exorcism. It's more frightening than gory; no characters die (except a dog), and not much blood is shown, except during an intense demon-possession scene at the climax. But even though it's mostly based on suggestion, the scary stuff is terrifying. Language includes one "s--t" and a few other words but is infrequent. Sex isn't an issue, other than that a married couple is shown to be comfortable with each other in the bedroom (with a little mild innuendo). One character is shown to have drunk some whisky and fallen asleep at his desk. The main characters, Ed and Lorraine Warren, were real-life paranormal investigators.
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What's the story?
In THE CONJURING, in the early 1970s, the Perron family -- Roger (Ron Livingston), Carolyn (Lili Taylor), and their five daughters -- move into a new home in the Rhode Island countryside. Before long, they start encountering strange noises and smells, stopped clocks, slamming doors, and figures lurking in dark corners. So the Perrons approach paranormal investigators Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) and Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson) for help. The Warrens believe a demon is causing the trouble, and when Carolyn becomes possessed, they must get approval from the church for an exorcism. Unfortunately, Lorraine's clairvoyant abilities have taken quite a toll on her physical strength, and Ed worries that she might not survive their latest adventure.
Is it any good?
This horror film provides a treasure trove of typical haunting tricks that seems fresh and terrifying once again. Best known for co-creating Saw, expert horror director James Wan has happily advanced into more sophisticated tales with Insidious and now The Conjuring. Rather than gore, Wan goes for a more old-fashioned, character-based movie here. What's more, Wan plays with the "based on a true story" motif in interesting ways. Rather than remaining stuck on facts, he uses the story in more metaphysical ways, suggesting that both demons (and angels) could actually exist.
The movie's inspired music score is key: it's a collection of edgy, discordant tones that works beautifully with the images. Wan's choice of actors also adds a level of class. Taylor and Farmiga in particular are two of our finest current actresses, and they bring an intense sense of empathy to the screen. Wilson matches them, making it hard not to hope that a series of true-story horror movies based on the Warrens is in horror fans' future.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about The Conjuring's violence and how it's presented. How much is actually shown? What's scarier -- lots of gore and blood, or "suggested" scares? Why?
What do you think about the real-life aspects of the movie? Does the movie make you believe in ghosts and demons? Does it make you want to learn more about the Warrens?
Are the Warrens role models? How do they help out the Perron family?
What's the appeal of demon possession/exorcism movies? What do they have to say about the world?