Conjuring Subtexts: thoughts on the movie The Conjuring

I finally saw the horror movie The Conjuring this week. It had all of the things I love about good horror movie.
▪ Atmospheric
▪ Slow build with lots of plausible deniability
▪ The handsome Patrick Wilson
▪ The brilliant Lili Taylor (whom I sat near in RL in a restaurant; ask me about it sometime)
Like Sinister and Insidious, The Conjuring proves that you can scare people with a minimum of gore. I hate violent and slasher films. I can’t watch torture porn, like the Saw and Hostel franchises.

My main criticism with the movie is with the third act, when the mystery is revealed. I actually think it would have been scarier if the line between actual possession and mental disturbance was blurred. We all have dark, atavistic urges and voices hidden deep within our brains.

Annabel doll
Annabel doll

One of the tropes that The Conjuring (and Insidious and Sinister) keep returning to is the idea of possession. An exorcism is the dramatic denouement of most of these films. When I was a child, I couldn’t bear to watch the mother of all demonic possession films, The Exorcist. An innocent person taken over by an evil entity doesn’t really terrify me, per se. And the staples of possession: ravaged, tortured voices, blasphemous oaths, levitation and puking don’t bother me, either. What scared me as child, and still scares me, it what happens to the possessed spirit. Insidious is the only movie I know of that explored the limbo where the ensnared soul was housed.

I am also disturbed with the whole Christian rites as being the only panacea against such evil. What happens if you get possessed and you’re an observant Jew, or are Buddhist, Hindu or Muslim? One of the subtexts of this subgenre is that Christianity is inherently good, something I don’t believe. In The Exorcist, the devil uses a pagan entity, Pazuzu, to get into Regan. According to Babylonian myth, Pazuzu, despite (or even because of) his scary appearance, could be used to drive away other evil spirits. This whole subtext of Christian hegemony kind of spoiled The Conjuring for me.

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