Demon horror. Supposedly true story based on an incident in the 1970s about the most horrifying experience of two paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorraine Warren. The Perron family with five girls enter their new farmhouse out in the rural area (of course) only to discover it is haunted by evil entities. They hire the famous Warrens to figure it out and so the confrontation occurs. That’s pretty much it. Pretty much the usual haunted house story with creaking boards, slamming doors, birds flying into windows, dogs seeing spirits, cold areas, rotten smells, and the usual exorcism scene. But I’m not being negative. These things must all be there and the filmmakers do very well in telling this rich “true” story. It’s a good solid horror film with good creepy moments and good character development, with solid performances by Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson, as well as Lili Taylor.
It’s a kind of origin story for all those Ghosthunters we have nowadays with their fancy electronic equipment and pseudo-scientific means of detecting ghosts and whatnot. But in the 70s, they were just starting out, so we see them setting up an analog reel to reel recorders and flash still cameras with thermostats to catch any change in temperature. And of course, a super 8mm camera. It was a clever homage to today’s more developed scene.
I went to this film with high hopes because I had read it was written by Christians who seemed to express in an interview how much Jesus was the answer to addressing demonic entities, unlike 90% of these supernatural horror movies that only have religion to show how powerless it is against supernatural evil. Okay, maybe 80%.
Well, I can’t say I was entirely satisfied, but kind of pleased. I’m conflicted. This is a mixture of good and bad elements.
The Warrens are depicted not so much as Christian believers as pragmatic users of religion. They believe demons are real, and they have connections with Roman Catholic church for exorcisms and blessings, but they appear to fight evil entities, they do not seem to call upon God in faith. They don’t pray or exhibit anything that illustrates they are true believers. This is a fine distinction, but stay with me.
Now, I don’t pretend to be an expert in fighting demonic spirits and don’t want to be. But it seems to me that as I read in the Bible, demons are mostly cast out in the name/power of Jesus Christ by his faithful followers (Acts 16:16-18), but sometimes even unbelievers can do so by appealing to Jesus (Matt 7:21-23). It’s usually pretty simple, and usually a verbal casting out, as opposed to exorcism, except for more difficult cases that may require prayer and fasting (Mark 9:14-29). But those who are not followers of Messiah can be possessed or even beat up when they try to exorcise demons (Acts 19:13-20).
In the movies, I realize religious relics like crosses and religious rites like exorcisms are much more filmic and visual, but I have always had a problem with the Roman Catholic rite as presented in these films. And it’s used in The Conjuring as well.
Here’s my beef: It seems to create a picture of sympathetic magic, whereby a demon’s power is subdued by proper ritual engagement. You’ve all seen it, and its in The Conjuring as well: They read off a bunch of Latin ritual texts as if saying magic words are where the power lies, rather than the actual appeal to the living God over that spiritual being. It makes it appear that the victory is in some ritual action than in the faith of the believer. That would be magic.
In this movie, the mother is possessed by a demon that wants to get her to kill her daughter. When they start reading off the magical words in Latin, and sprinkle holy water on the mother, it brings out the demonic presence and we see all the typical (not bad, and not stupid, but definitely typical) demonic special effects that take you out of the story and make it only a movie. You know, the special demonic pupils, the face that looks like Linda Blair possessed, and the ability to do levitation and move everything in the house. Unfortunately, the moment that happens, I no longer believe the story and just know I am watching a movie with special effects.
But in this story, they overcome the demon ultimately by saying something like “I command you to go back to hell” and then speaking to the mom underneath by saying, “Don’t let it take you over, remember your love for your children.” In other words, no appeal to Jesus Christ.
So the picture it paints is more one of self-salvation than faith.
Nowhere is anyone depicted as being in relation to God. Religion is a weapon, but not a relational reality. God seems to be more of a tool. We can fight demons and win if we use the right magical weapons. It is good that they show the religious means of battling this demon and they do make reference in the movie to suggesting the girls be baptized in order to protect them, and these are all technically allusions to faith, but without any content. The problem I had was that these were all in context, rituals of sympathetic magic, rather than pictures of faith in context. God is a tool more than a person.
But then again, since it is coming from Hollywood, it’s better than the usual, which is to ignore God altogether.
I should probably be more positive about this positive portrayal of the Christian religion here, but I think the reason I am not all gaga about it is because not once in the entire story did I ever hear the name Jesus Christ appealed to. If you know me, you know I don’t like most Christian movies, so I am not calling for that kind of artificial tripe. What I mean is that in truth, the only way to battle demonic entities is going to be by faith and the power of Jesus Christ, specifically, not in “God” generically. In real life spiritual warfare like this, from what I understand, it is the blood of Jesus Christ that is appealed to that overcomes demons (Heck, even Arnold got it right in The End of Days when he won through faith over human strength).
In this movie, they do say, “In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” at the beginning of the exorcism, and that weakens my argument somewhat, but I would argue back that it is spoken like magical words. I don’t know what is being said in Latin, (so that is meaningless to us if we do not understand what is being said.) The Warrens use crucifixes around the house, but only because it pisses the demons off to have religious icons. Again, magical tools, not spiritual faith.
At the end of the film they have a super that says, “The devil exists. God exists. Our destiny hinges on which one we follow.” Not bad. Kudos.
But I still got the sense from this film that it was more about magic than faith.
Okay, here’s another strike against my negativity: The story depicts one of the original evils as being rooted in a witch from the Salem trial! Of course, in the Hollywood delusionary universe, witches don’t exist except as lies created by Christians in order to persecute. Well, here, we see that is a lie itself. Witchery is real and it is evil. Sorry, all you pagans. I know you’ll be the next in line to sue me for discrimination — And call me evil.
So, in many ways, the Christian religion is portrayed positively and I applaud them for that. But it is certainly ironic that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named in Hollywood is not Voldemort, but Jesus Christ (except as a cuss word). You just can’t use those two little words positively. Even when you make a movie that takes demonic spirits as real, God forbid you ever mention the one most relevant name to that reality. It’s the one name that actually has the power to crush evil spirits and therefore is the one name that must not be uttered by Hollywood, Government, Education, Science, Leftism, the Democratic Party (unless they are likening their candidate to him) and demons.
Hmmm, those ladies doth protest too much methinks.
Here I go, violating the Separation of Church and Hollywood: Evil spirits, I cast you out in the name and power of JESUS CHRIST and his blood shed on the cross for the atonement of sins.