I have recently seen this film, and it was excellently done. It won't give away too much to tell you that this 'based on a true story' is essentially a modern period piece of the 'things that go bump in the night' school of horror. Set in 1971, it faithfully replicates the lost sense of living in an era where the cusp of modernity has not yet reached even rural Rhode Island, when communication with people in the next city over might yet be onerous and dicey, and when a house likely built before the end of the Nineteenth century would still be considered real estate worth bringing a family into.

It is, as well, set in a time when most of our conventional ideas about horror were not yet inculcated into the culture, and in this vein it is important to recognize this story as an unofficial prequel of sorts, for it deigns to recount the last considerable effort of an already-famed pair of occult researchers prior to a much more celebrated 'true story' of theirs -- the one recounted in The Amityville Horror (indeed, there is a throwaway line in this film alluding to the fact that these investigators are already slated to check out an anomaly in Amityville after concluding this case).

The setup for this film is oddly comforting in its familiarity. A family -- ma, pa, and five daughters -- move into the creepy, remote old house. The family dog is spooked and won't come in. Despite this desolate creepiness, the children choose to amuse themselves with an especially creepy game, 'hide and claps' -- essentially a cross between hide and seek and Marco polo, with handclaps substituting for calling out. This, naturally, wends them into dark corners of the edifice, for some choicely scary moments. From there, a sort of standard progression proceeds, sounds in the night, kids behaving strangely, people receiving bruises for no visible reason. When further events elevate to a sufficient level of terror (which doesn't take too long), the paranormal investigators are summoned, Ed and Lorraine Warren, he being the more learned in the field and she being psychic and so able to sense bad mojo. Naturally, instead of simply being determiners of the cause, they get caught up in the spirit-baiting, with some I'll omens following them to their own home.

Perhaps it is an oddity, if thought upon too deeply, that the investigators whose occupation is in fending off evil spirits would bring into their own home souvenirs of demonic possession -- a museum, they frame it as, but really for them it is something of a trophy room. A key item in its holding is awakened by the events of the current investigation, to personalize the fight for the spirit-fighters. One would think that an object previously demonically possessed and active for evil ends is a surefire candidate for future possession and mischief, and so ought to be destroyed, or at least kept as far from one's own home as possible. But not so with our intrepid duo.

Another plot point in this film which gave me pause was the need for the spirit hunters to get clearance from the Roman Catholic Church to exorcise the evil from this house (although, as you will see in watching this movie, the Church acts too slowly in this case). To me, seeking validation of the supernatural nature of events from a body which pronounces miracles for the purpose of according sainthood is akin to asking a carpenter whether a particular problem ought to be addressed with a hammer. I recall within the past few years seeing a horror film where a possession was effected by an evil spirit from Jewish myth, and the appropriate response was to summon a Rabbi to combat it. I wonder if in Muslim countries the are horror films where a malevolent djinn is present and can only be contained by an Imam of the right sect. Perhaps in the end all such hauntings are egrigores of the belief system in which they arise, in turn explicable by a single underlying force which exists for neither good nor ill, but simply projects what is already imagined in faithful hearts.

But, such philosophizing aside, this film delivers on its premise. Yes, the story is rote and somewhat predictable. There is no great twist away from the conventions of horror cinema, but there is an excellently well written, timed, and acted retelling of the old campfire standard of a haunting taken to the very edge of mortal danger. For fans of the genre, it is well worth adding to one's own collection of experiences.

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