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Match Play is a golf/suspense novel. Dust of Autumn is a bloody one set in upstate New York. Prairie View is set in South Dakota, with a final scene atop Rattlesnake Butte. Life in the Arbor is a children's book about Rollie Rabbit and his friends (on about a fourth grade level). The Black Widow involves an elaborate extortion scheme. Doggy-Dog World is my memoir. And ES3 is a description of my method for examining English sentence structure.
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My newest novel, Happy Valley, can be found here.

Thursday, July 25

The Conjuring

When it comes to ghosts and ghoulies and things that go bump in the night, I’m pretty much a disbeliever. I say “pretty much” to leave myself an escape hatch in case I’m wrong. It’s also why I’m an agnostic rather than an atheist. You know, a two-door burrow in case there really is a God who might take note of my disbelief and send down a lightning bolt to dissuade me of my disbelief. Sort of hedging my bet.
Because the reviews were all so positive, we went to see The Conjuring, and I’m pulled in two directions—my skepticism about such things as exorcism and demonism and possession pulling me one way and my admiration for movies that are truly scary pulling me the other way. Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates in Psycho scared me. Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs scared me. And Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance in The Shining scared me (but then, Jack Nicholson as Jack Nicholson is a pretty scary fellow). The Conjuring scared the crap out of me. The story is much like that in The Amityville Horror, a New England house seemingly possessed by ghosts and past crimes. And, as with Amityville, the filmmakers would have us believe these events are all true. Bah, humbug! I say. The film doesn’t need that to be effective. The house in Rhode Island is a wonderful set location, large, multi-roomed with all kinds of hidey holes, especially the hidden cellar the new occupants discover soon after they move in. In 1971, Carolyn (Lili Taylor) and Roger Perron (Ron Livingston) have bought the house as a fixer-upper at a bargain price. Well, yeah, not many buyers for a haunted house. They and their five daughters move in and start to fix it up. It’s out in the boonies surrounded by huge creepy trees, with a dock in back on a silent creepy lake. Their dog Sadie on move-in day refuses to come in the house and is discovered a day or two later dead and bloody. No explanation for such a calamity, just there for us to imagine. To escape the boredom of their new country home, the girls play a game of hide and clap—the one who is “it” is blindfolded and must find the others who are hiding but must clap hands when the searcher says “clap,” three such requests all together. Ah, yes, all kinds of room here for ghostly skullduggery, and it’s creepily effective. There are enough spooky happenings (Carolyn’s unexplained bruising, a daughter’s sleepwalking, another daughter’s conversations with a dead boy) that the Perrons contact Ed and Lorraine Warren, two well-known paranormal investigators, to come investigate their apparently haunted house. Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) is clairvoyant and Ed (Patrick Watson) is the investigator. I love Vera Farmiga for her role in Up in the Air and as the fidgety Norma Bates in tv’s The Bates Hotel, but I love her equally in this movie. The Warrens come to stay at the Perron house and set up all kinds of recording equipment to document any paranormal activities, and they get plenty of opportunities, capturing video footage of one daughter’s being dragged around by her hair. All of it is quietly, spookily, scarily creepy. The final episodes are more violently creepy but are still effective. I think the best scary parts involve that really interesting house with all its cobwebby secret spaces and the creepy music box and that really creepy doll so reminiscent of Fats, the ventriloquist’s dummy in Magic.

Go see The Conjuring and enjoy the thrills and chills, ignore the implausabilities.
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