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film study: is The Conjuring 2 FACT [or] FICTION?

Earlier this week – Monday the 13th – a friend and I went and saw The Conjuring 2. I enjoyed it, surprisingly a lot more than I expected; and definitely better than the first Conjuring film. [read my full review on The Conjuring 2 hereHowever, on the way back from the movie, I had an epiphany: if the “haunting” shown in the film is based on actual events, and Ed and Lorraine Warren were concerned about the whole thing being a hoax, just how much of is actual truth? That’s where we are today: I’m going to be looking into the true story behind the infamous “Enfield Poltergeist” and separate the facts from the fiction. As expected, this post does involve the plot and important details involving The Conjuring 2. Being as it’s a newer release, spoilers will be everywhere within this post. So if you haven’t seen the movie yet, or you’re okay with spoilers – let’s begin.

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Before we officially begin though, it’s important to note that Director James Wan didn’t take many shortcuts when translating the infamous Enfield Haunting onto the big screen – this is proved when he went so far as to display real-life photographs and locations against the ones shown in the movie during the end credits. I mean, that’s impressive and it really adds to the tone of the film. Even hearing the actual tapes during the credits reminded viewers that this was an actual event..or was it?

At the beginning of the movie, we start with the infamous Amityville case and its aftermath, because most of Conjuring 2 has to keep going back to the Warrens‘ story across the Atlantic as they deal with how traumatizing the event was for Lorraine. The case in this movie was often called the “English Amityville,” or “the Enfield Case” because [unlike what was shown in the movie] there was many paranormal investigators swooping in from all over the globe. So yes, the Warrens did drop by at one point in 1978 according to one of the investigators, Guy Lyon Playfair. But according to him, during an interview on Darkness Radio, the Warrens showed up “uninvited and only stayed for a day.” Even worse, Playfair claimed: “All I can remember is Ed Warren telling me that he could make a lot of money for me out of it.” Playfair isn’t the first to say something like this – over the course of their cases, the Warrens were constantly called out for “helping families for the money and fame” rather than their hearts of gold – which the movies show them to have. [listen to the entire interview with Playfair here]

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though I gotta say, the chemistry between these two is perfect.

It’s important to note that a lot of the details in the movie, like how the supernatural problems occur after the girls play with a Ouija board, are fact though – and are straight from the accounts of the Hodgson family. [especially Janet and Peggy] They did flee to the neighbor’s house like they did in the film, with witnesses claimed they could hear  “whistling” and “knocking on the walls” just as it happens in the film.

But note that I said “a lot” of the details..not all. Some of the more extravagant occurrences, such as the scene [that’s also seen in the trailer] where we see all the crosses on the wall turning upside down, has absolutely no basis in what the girls say happened: You read that right, this never happened. [though the girls claim that the room really did have crosses on the wall in the first place] Janet was also actually recorded having a deep-throated, evil voice when in interviews and throughout the investigations. You can also see in the interview below that the movie actually followed Janet‘s mannerisms and claims quite faithfully.

Another important tidbit, which comes from the movie and the actual case, was that an older man by the name of Bill Wilkins actually died in their home. According to Terry: Bill Wilkins‘ son, the man actually did die in that bloody chair of a brain hemorrhage. As you no doubt heard in the interview video above, Janet claims to have been possessed by Wilkins, leading many to believe this gives a large credibility to the case. But does it? Hold on. In the movie, one of the skeptics points out that Janet could have very easily have heard about Wilkins from a neighbor, and it would have been very easy for her to fake the voice in order to keep the whole charade going. Still, the movie pays close attention to Janet‘s specific recollections, even adding her [actual] claims that when the “voice” came over her, she felt like something was behind her.. But this is all nothing compared to what comes next:

Janet was caught faking the haunting: and more than once!

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[the longer I look at this, the more it really does look like she’s just jumping]

Near the end of the movie, the investigators catch Janet bending spoons and flipping tables on video, making it clear to them that she was faking the activity – but would you believe me if I said that this also happened in reality, with Janet and her sister faking it more than once in the exact same manner? It’s true as even Janet herself has admitted that “some” of the events were faked, even though she adamantly remains convinced that most of it was real, including her possession. At least the haunting[s] stopped, right? By the end of The Conjuring 2, we earn something of a conclusion, that the demonic spirit is destroyed by the Warrens and everyone is happy. However, it also points out at the very end that Peggy Hodgson continued to live in the home until her last days of life [which is fact] and ultimately – died in the same chair as Bill Wilkins. This follows the truth of it [for the most part], as the Hodgsons have claimed over the years that while most of the haunting stopped after a priest visited them in 1978, activity still occurred in the home for the following decades to a smaller and lesser degree. Of course, like any other “true story”, the movie also left out a few important parts: such as Janet being sent to a psychiatric hospital where they “stuck electrodes” on her head for tests. Though, the tests turned out normal. The movie also leaves out that Janet‘s sister Margaret had “the voice” speak through her as well!

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Left to right: Margaret, Johnny, Janet

The question I’ll leave you with today is Is it all a hoax?” Unfortunately, It’s hard to claim that the entire case was just faked by this family considering all evidence to the contrary. But you have to admit: it’s even more impressive how well-documented this case was, which resulted in a movie that manages to capture much of the story’s compelling moments and arguments without drifting too far from the truth. You know, except for the part where Ed and Lorraine Warren are not just “in it for the money.” If you’re still aching for more on this “case”, click here for a hour long documentary on the Enfield Poltergeist and be sure to leave your thoughts on this whole “scenario” in the comments below!

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‘IT FOLLOWS’ is the most UNSETTLING film I’ve seen in a long time

I didn’t know anything about this film when it was first announced – I knew it by title, and I had even seen the first trailer.. But ultimately, it told me nothing, and raised a few questions: what was It? why was It Follow-ing that girl? It told me zero about the film; which got my attention more. After working every time I planned to see it, to not being able to find it in a theater nearby [had to take a bus 45 minutes, nearing the highway exit to Montreal]a friend and I finally went and saw the suspenseful masterpiece known as It Follows.

It Follows comes off as an obvious nod to late 70s to early 80s movies, and it is insanely well done. It’s cinematography could be considered masterful, the plot is brilliant, the FANTASTIC music that sounds like it’s out of Suspiria , [oh god, that music though: it’s perfect] and even the fact that it’s actors were people that I didn’t recognize – It’s all something I really enjoyed.. as in it really well thought out before bringing the film to the screens! The film was eerie, suspenseful, and best of all – real.

Our story begins with a [fairly attractive] girl by the name of Jay. It’s the beginning of fall; [early October, I’d say] so you’d think life should be about going school, meeting boys and weekends out with friends.. But, after a somewhat innocent sexual encounter with her older boyfriend, she finds herself haunted by strange visions and the dreadful sense that someone, or possibly something, [it] follows her everywhere she goes: and follows her it does..

While it felt somewhat obvious that the “big bad” in this film was an STD, [STI ?] and David Robert Mitchell, the director/writer, did an amazing job at keeping this “villain” hidden in plain sight. At times, the camera wouldn’t even be focused on two characters talking, but to an unknown individual in the background – it’s subtlety, and it’s key in this film. It’s like Hugh [the asshole boyfriend who “passes” the evil along to Jay in the movie] said: “It could look like someone you know or it could be a stranger in a crowd. Whatever helps it get close to you.” We’re quite literally told what “it” is, but through common knowledge, not through the movie: and I like that; subtlety. I could have gone into how she tries to pass it on to others [who end up dead afterwards] and how her sister and her friends try to help her come to terms with everything by “fighting the villain” but that’s something you’d have to see the movie for; it’s important, don’t get me wrong, but that’s not really the point I wanted to bring across in this post..

The other cool thing about It Follows is that for a film that was done so well,  it surprisingly it only had a two million dollar budget, which for films these days, that’s nothing. It Follows is absolutely nuts and deserves the praise I read all over the internet beforehand. It’s not so much horror – since I wouldn’t say it’s scary – but it’s more more suspense, and unsettling very unsettling: with every camera shot, every view from Jay, watching this film makes you feel involved – like no matter what you do, no matter what happens: you’re trapped in this world of evil. It ends on kind of  a cliffhanger; showing that for all we know – the evil hasn’t left. and that realistically- knowing what the evil is- it never really will.. Of course, this helps make it feel depressingly real. But you know what? I liked that fact. I like that it may be “okay” for Jay, coming to terms with it by the end of the film- but that doesn’t mean that this “villain” doesn’t exist elsewhere.. It Follows is getting a sequel, I know that much for sure: whether or not it’ll play out the same, or if it’s following someone new; is left to the writer. In short, watch this movie – watch it and feel unsettled..feel what Jay felt – and be in agony afterwards. Be advised though, this is not a feel good movie.

This is what a suspense film should feel like.

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