Category Archives: Genre: Horror

Movie Review: Let the Right One In (2008)

[Just looking through my movie reviews, I noticed that I inexplicably left out one of the best films I saw when I was over in the UK last year.  The film is a little old now to be reviewing it as a new film, so I’m going to review it as a ‘classic’.]

Let the Right One In (Låt den rätte komma in) is a 2008 Swedish film that was released to much critical acclaim, won a bunch of awards, and has attracted a cult following.  I am usually somewhat wary of such foreign films because they do tend to get over-hyped, but thankfully, this one is entirely worthy of the praise.

Without giving too much away, Let the Right One In tells the story of Oskar, a bullied young boy living in the suburbs of Stockholm in 1982, and Eli, a mysterious, pale young girl who moves in next door with her father.  The film is an unconventional horror-romance – where the horror is genuinely creepy and frightening, and the romance is heartfelt and strangely, sweet.

Directed by Tomas Alfredson and based on the best-selling book by John Ajvide Lindqvist, Let the Right One In is freakishly atmospheric.  It must be a combination of setting the film in the beautiful,  icy-cold Swedish winter and the finely-paced direction of Alfredson, who shows you just enough blood and gore to get your heart racing without making it seem gratuitous.

Many have said that Let the Right One In is Sweden’s answer to Twilight – well, that’s a bit of an insult to the former.  Don’t get me wrong, I quite like Twilight, but Let the Right One In one of those rare horror gems capable of lingering in your mind even years down the track.  There are numerous scenes in the film (and one in particular) where the imagery has been etched onto my brain forever.

4.5 stars out of 5!

[PS: Sadly, the film is being remade by Hollywood as ‘Let Me In’.  It will be directed by Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) and the setting will be moved to a small New Mexico townOskar will be renamed Owen and will be played by Kodi Smit-McPhee (The Road).  I sincerely hope it will be good.]

Movie Review: Jennifer’s Body (2009)

Talk about a letdown.

You have Diablo Cody, the creator of cult favourite Juno, which just won her the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay (and also the award-winning TV show The United States of Tara).  You have Amanda Seyfried, the up-and-coming star of Mean Girls and Mamma Mia!.  You have director Karyn Kusama, who was at the helm for Æon Flux (I know), but also the critically acclaimed Girl Fight.  And of course, there’s Megan Fox, who is widely regarded as the most desirable woman on the freaking planet.

On paper, Jennifer’s Body looks like a sure winner.  But somehow, the film received a lukewarm reception and totally bombed out.  It will go straight to DVD in Australia early next year.

After seeing it, I can kinda understand why.

As per usual, I’m not revealing the any more of the plot than necessary.  Just know it is set in a high school and is a horror comedy about two teenage girls.  One good thing is that the previews are somewhat misleading and don’t give away too much.

In a way, I can see where the movie was coming from.  At its heart, Jennifer’s Body is a very dark black comedy which pays tribute to the old school horror movies (and has a certain 80s feel to it).  There are parts that are genuinely funny if you appreciate dark humour (I certainly do), and there are a couple of scenes which may give you a fright, or at least make you cringe in disgust.

However, watching it, I got the distinct feeling that Cody deliberately set out to make a ‘cult’ movie – and that just doesn’t work.  Movies are given the distinguished ‘cult’ status by the fans.  When you try too hard to make a film quirky and wacky, it just gets weird – but without the accompanying unintended laughs.  There were so many WTF moments in Jennifer’s Body, but they weren’t necessarily good WTF moments.  Don’t get me wrong, Cody is a skilled screenwriter who writes witty, crisp dialogue and creates great characters, but it feels all too polished and packaged.

It’s a difficult film to rate because it has some great elements to it.  It’s sexy, hip and stylish and knows how to manipulate the audience, especially teenage boys (whom they probably thought would flock to see Fox and Seyfried get it on).  The performances are solid, especially Seyfried, who manages to pull off an ‘average’ teenage girl convincingly.  And Megan Fox surprised me with her acting ability.  Yes, she was playing a skanky, bitchy slut of a girl so it might not have been a stretch for her (think Eminem in 8 Mile), but she was actually very good.

On the other hand, Jennifer’s Body just wasn’t that enjoyable.  There are solid moments but it’s not particularly scary nor particularly funny.  It was a little all over the place (though this was probably intentional).  It’s unfortunate because I think they had something going here with the premise and the concept, but the pieces just didn’t fit together for some reason.

2.5 stars out of 5!

Movie Review: Paranormal Activity (2009)

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Paranormal Activity is the latest ‘is it real or not?’, low-budget horror movie pieced together with supposed amateur home video footage.  Think The Blair Witch Project for haunted houses.

While I liked the overall idea and it’s by no means a terrible film, Paranormal Activity didn’t really do it for me.  Maybe I just wasn’t in the mood to be scared.  It did have its moments, but certainly isn’t the ‘scariest’ or ‘most terrifying’ movie of all time (or even the year) as it has been hyped up to be.

The footage begins when young couple Micah and Katie, living together in a fairly nice suburban house, decide to get a video camera to capture the paranormal activity they have been experiencing.  There is a bit of a back story and you get to know the characters are little through footage of their daily lives, but I found these to be time fillers than any real effort to allow the audience to get to know, and perhaps even care about, these people.

Like The Blair Witch Project, the tension in Paranormal Activity is built up slowly and gradually, with the intent of blowing the audience away with a ripper of an ending.  However, even at only 86 minutes, it felt like nothing was happening for a really long time.  A few bumps in the night, a few eerie things here and there, but for the most part they seemed like relatively minor incidents that were met with overreaction.  I understand director and writer Oren Peli’s intention to build an atmospheric film that utilises dread rather than cheap scares, but I spent much of the movie wishing something would actually happen.  I will say, though, that there were a couple of pretty cool things that happened towards the end, but unfortunately the final sequences weren’t as chilling as I had hoped.**

The film’s biggest problem, from which most of its other problems stemmed, was the restrictive nature of its format.  Of course, as the audience, you only get to see what has recorded by the inhabitants of the house.  But that raises some very difficult obstacles.  How much can you reasonably expect someone who is being terrified by demons to tape everything that happens to them?  Do you go the realistic route and miss out on some of the action?  Or do you come up with forced excuses to make them take the video camera everywhere and record everything?  Either way, the film suffers.

To its credit, Paranormal Activity tries to reach some sort of balance between the two extremes.  As the inhabitants actually set out to capture and document the haunting, a camera is set up in the bedroom and runs throughout the night, and that is when most of the creepy stuff happens.  In my opinion, that was by far the cleverest idea in the film.  Every time the bedroom cam is set up and the residents to go bed, I start to swell up with anticipation as the clock fast forwards to when ‘stuff’ happens.  Occasionally, they venture out of the bedroom in hand-held mode, but thankfully the footage is not as shaky or nauseating as it could have been.

However, what this system also means is that some scenes are left to your imagination because you can’t see what is going on – sometimes that may be more frightening, but that’s not always the case in this movie.  It also means that at least one of the characters has to be a totally unreasonable prick so the camera can be kept running, but it gets to the point where it becomes a stretch.  With this type of film format, you just have to take the good with the bad.

Paranormal Activity also suffers from a few other issues.  This kind of film thrives on the gullibility of the audience.  The more you believe it is real, the scarier it becomes.  The problem is, while both leads were adequate, there were a couple of occasions where they felt unnatural.  Could be the dialogue or the acting, but I wasn’t convinced I was watching authentic footage.  One of the reasons why The Blair Witch Project was so successful was because it misled people into believing that the footage was real.  The film was presented and marketed as authentic.  10 years later, this has become a lot more difficult to accomplish, and as a result Paranormal Activity doesn’t have quite the same impact as its predecessor.

In the end, Paranormal Activity is a film worth watching simply because it is fresh and not done very often.  And to be fair, it also has some solid, atmospheric moments.  That said, lower your expectations if you want to be genuinely frightened.

3 stars out of 5!

** Apparently there are at least 3 alternative endings for this film, and I don’t quite think the one released in the cinemas is the best one.  See here for more details.

PS: a sequel is already in the works thanks to the success of the film, which is already the most successful independent film ever in terms of return on investment.  Let’s just hope the sequel is at least watchable, unlike that dreadful sequel to Blair Witch which I still rank up there as one of the worst sequels of all time.

Movie Review: Saw VI (2009)

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After seeing how confused and convoluted the Saw franchise had gotten after the lacklustre effort that was Saw V, I didn’t think it was possible for them squeeze another one.  Clearly, I underestimated the writers, who not only managed to pump out another 91 minutes of torture porn and link it to the rest of the series, but also made it surprisingly good.  Well, relatively speaking anyway.

Saw VI picks up where the last one took off, and like most film franchises that have lasted this long, assume some level of prior knowledge.  There are some flashbacks, but for the most part you’re left to rely on your memory to recall what the heck happened in the last two or three films.  And if your memory is anything like mine, you’re likely going to be struggling to make the ‘jigsaw’ pieces fit.

Thankfully, Saw VI has a plot of its own, so it doesn’t really matter if the central storyline running through the franchise doesn’t click.  Needless to say, there’s the mysterious, torturous ‘game’ with a number of unwilling (albeit deserving) participants caught up in a series of moral dilemmas, ingenious but gruesome contraptions, the obligatory plot twist, and of course, copious amounts of blood and guts.

That said, while the whole affair was rather predictable, Saw VI somehow managed to stay afloat.  It would have been very easy for the film to have crashed and burned, but first-time director Kevin Greutert and regular Saw franchise writers Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan made the film much more intelligent and suspenseful than one would have expected.  However, that doesn’t change the fact that you still know what to expect, and that’s what ultimately prevents Saw VI from being anything more than an above average episode of a declining franchise.

So, where does that leave my review of the movie?  At the end of the day, Saw VI was more of the same old stuff we’ve been seeing since the very first one back in 2004.  If you’ve seen the others in the series, you’ll likely be numb by now and the film just won’t have the same impact.  On the other hand, if this is your first of the franchise, you won’t have a clue about the elaborate back story.  Either way, it’s neither particularly good nor particularly bad.

2.5 out of 5 stars!

[PS: judging from the ending, I suppose we can expect a Saw VII next year…]

Movie Review: The Final Destination (3D) (2009)

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The fourth instalment in the Final Destination franchise, simply titled The Final Destination, is pretty much what it looks like – more mindless, gruesome, outrageous deaths – but this time, in glorious 3D.

When reviewing a film like this, expectations need to be kept in perspective.  Let’s face it, if you’ve seen any of the previous three films of the series or seen the previews, you know very well what you’re in for.  It’s as though all the writers did was sit around a table and come up with a list of the most creative and gory ways for a person to die, then try and link them together into a semi-coherent storyline.  The aim was essentially to utilise the 3D technology to elicit shocks in the most efficient manner (ie, with sharp objects and projectiles coming at you).  You know those 10-15 minute 3D/4D films you see at theme parks which are fun while they last?  Well, The Final Destination is like one of those, except a lot longer, a lot cheesier, and with a lot more blood and guts.

The good thing about The Final Destination is that it doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not.  The first couple of films in the series were more serious, but by now they have accepted that it’s all quite farcical.  The storyline and dialogue is almost intentionally bad, and most of the deaths are ridiculously over the top and tongue-in-cheek.  As usual, the writers have been very creative in coming up with some rather clever (albeit entirely impossible) ‘accidents’.    Throw in a bunch of attractive young up-and-coming actors (Bobby Campo, Shantel VanSanten, Nick Zano and Haley Webb), a couple of B-grade stars (Mykelti Williamson and Krista Allen), some skimpy clothing and gratuitous nudity, and that’s the film in a nutshell.

That said, this doesn’t necessarily mean the film is good.  Or enjoyable for that matter.  In focusing entirely on utilising the 3D effects and outdoing previous deaths, the movie forgot to be suspenseful – the reason why its predecessors were successful.  There were essentially two major problems.  First, the deaths were more likely to generate laughter than screams.  The film was definitely more ‘shock’ comedy than suspense horror-thriller.  They could have tried to accomplish both but the build-up was completely devoid of tension.

Secondly, the predictability made it tedious.  To be fair, they tried to make things slightly more interesting by tossing in a bunch of false alarms and red herrings to keep the audience guessing – but rest assured, you knew what was inevitably coming.  Watching the film became an exercise in speculating how the next person was going to die.  If they survive this time, big deal.  They’ll die sooner or later, just in another way.  You don’t care what happens because you become numb to it all.

I must also mention that out of the four films in the franchise, this one had the worst introductory ‘accident’ to set things in motion.  We’ve had a plane crash, a big car crash and a roller-coaster crash, all of which were quite suspenseful and/or spectacular (in my opinion), but sadly this one wasn’t either.  When you think about it, if it weren’t for the 3D gimmick, it’s hard to imagine that The Final Destination would have been made at all.

So there you have it.  If you’re after a couple of hours of brainless, adolescent silliness, The Final Destination could very well satisfy that craving – in 3D, no less.  But if you’re looking a little bit more than that, chances are the movie will disappoint.

2 stars out of 5!

Movie Review: Drag Me To Hell (2009)

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Drag Me To Hell – that’s what my 2 weeks of exams did to me.

But today, finally, at last, my goodness, it was all over!

Oh yeah.

Apart from a much-needed, long-overdue haircut, the first I did was to go watch Drag Me To Hell (as Terminator Salvation was on too late), the supposedly freaky horror film written and directed by Spider-Man’s Sam Raimi.

So, was it any good?  Well, I think it depends on two things.

First, whether you’ve seen Raimi’s old Evil Dead films (which I am a big fan of).  If you haven’t and are used to the same old formulaic horror films being churned out the last few years, then you might not ‘get’ this movie.  It’s got a fair share of boo moments, ultra-sickening scenes, mixed in with the same unique comedic-style that will make your stomach churn.  It’s scary, silly, campy, and it may make you go ‘WTF?’ more than once, but it’s not pretentious and knows exactly what it’s doing.

Second, it depends on the mood you’re in.  If you’re up for a scare then it will scare you.  If you go in thinking that it’s going to be stupid, you’ll probably think it is.

There are no big complaints from me, even though I guessed the ending a fair while in advance.  The cast is solid.  Alison Lohman does a decent job in the lead, but she’s no Ash from The Evil Dead series.  Justin Long continues to prove that he is one of the most underappreciated actors in Hollywood, and Lorna Raver is outstanding as the horrifying Mrs Ganush.

So, I enjoyed it, though I wouldn’t call it mindblowing.  I guess you could say it’s a throwback to the classic horror films of the 80s.  I hope they make more of them.

3 out of 5 stars

The Haunting in Connecticut – Fact or Fiction?

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Just how much of it is true?

Yesterday I watched the ‘based on the true story’ film The Haunting in Connecticut.

First, a short review

To be honest, despite the poor reviews the film was received, it wasn’t all that bad.  It was just average, and for a supernatural horror film, ‘average’ is pretty good these days.  In my opinion, it was one of those rare horror films that actually got better as it progressed.  In the first half or so, the attempted scares were your stock standard ‘boo’ moments and the bloody, visceral shocks you’d expect to see in any regular PG-13 horror.  I don’t know why, but for some reason I found myself actually frightened a few times in the second half, and that’s a rarity for me nowadays.  I even forgot how insanely and ridiculously stupid and non-sensical (even within the confines of the film’s own logic) everything was.  And for that,  3 out of 5 stars!

Fact or Fiction?

After I got home, I started wondering just how much of the film was really ‘based’ on the true story?  Was it even a true story to begin with?  Which characters existed and what parts of the film actually happened in real life?

And so I turned to the trusty old Internets for some answers.  The results were…interesting.

The film is ‘based’ on supposedly true events that happened to the Snedeker family in 1986 when they moved into a house that turned out to be a former funeral home.  Naturally, spooky stuff started happening.  Their oldest son, who was 13 at the time and being treated for Hodgkin’s disease (the ‘Matt Campbell’ character from the movie) started behaving strangely and their 17-year old niece said she was fondled by unseen hands.  The mother, Carmen Snedeker (the ‘Sarah Campbell’ character from the movie), also claimed to be the victim of demonic sexual assaults.  There were many other alleged disturbances (such as water to blood, putrid odours, crucifixes going haywire or disappearing etc) but these were the most serious.

Eventually, Carmen Snedeker brought in Ed and Lorraine Warren, the infamous old ghostbusting couple that covered the ‘Amityville Horror’ haunting.  The Warren’s nephew, John Zaffis, also joined in for observations.  They became convinced that the house was haunted by demons.  A Catholic priest was brought in and the spirits were exorcised, and things went back to normal after that.  The Snedekers left two and a half years after they moved in.

With help from the Warrens, the Snedekers’ story was first brought to light by the book In a Dark Place: The Story of a True Haunting by Ray Garton, a horror fiction writer, and was also the subject of an episode of the TV show A Haunting titled A Haunting in Connecticut.  From what I’ve read about the book and the TV show, both were incredibly frightening.

Fact?

I wanted to know how credible the true story behind the movie was, so I dug a little further.

What John Zaffis said

John Zaffis is the nephew of the Warrens that were brought in by the Snedeker’s for help. Here is the full article he wrote about the Snedekers and their funeral home house.

In short, he discusses some of the background and events detailed in In a Dark Place and talks about his own experiences in the house.  Here’s an extract:

This is the case where I had my first encounter with a full formed demon and it is something to this day that I will never forget. I was sitting at the dining room table when it started to get ice cold in the room, at this point I knew something was getting ready to happen. I tried to get the other researchers or family members to respond to me by calling out to them but they did not. I knew at this point this was meant for me to experience alone. I had gotten up and walked into the hallway and looked up at the top of the stairs, I began to smell something like rotting meat which was all over this area and it was unbearable. As I continued to look up the grand staircase, I started to see something begin to form, as it slowly descended down the staircase. It was the ugliest thing I had ever seen, it had come to the last step on the staircase and it said to me “do you know what they did to us, do you know”? That was enough for me, I left the home and did not return for three days. I do not think I’ve ever encountered anything that has scared me as bad as that, I would not speak to anyone for days after the encounter, but I did go back to work on the case, the family needed our help.

Sounds pretty scary, right?

What Chip Coffey said

Chip Coffey is a self-proclaimed ‘psychic, medium, spiritual counselor and paranormal investigator’ who became involved with the Snedekers when the TV show was made. Here’s his blogger site.

Coffey also wrote an article about the haunting in Connecticut titled ‘Demons from the dark’ which mirrored a lot of the things said in Zaffis’s article. Here it is anyway.

Carmen Snedeker’s website

Carmen Snedeker is still around and she has her own website, which was surprisingly difficult to find. Follow this link to visit the page.

I must say, had I only seen Zaffis’s and Coffey’s articles, I would have found it all pretty convincing (maybe not convinced, but it would have been convincing).  But Carmen’s website smells funny – from the smiling ‘star-shot’ portrait to the shameless promotion of herself, advertising for supernatural investigators (including Zaffis), her touring lectures about the hauntings and (here’s the clincher) the brand new book on the haunting she is working on with Zaffis and Coffey!  Now they don’t sound so convincing anymore.

Carmen also mentions the feature film, which she believes “will bring a new understanding of what went on in the house”.  Clearly she had no idea of what the Hollywood producers had in mind.

Fiction?

From Carmen’s website, the Snedekers’ story began to completely fall apart.

What Garton said about his own book

From first publication of In a Dark Place, author Ray Garton has been savaging his own ‘non-fiction’ book and the Warrens.  I’ve found numerous examples of him condeming what he wrote as, effectively, made up.  By him.  Fiction.

Probably the most complete account comes from his interview at Horror Bound Magazine (see entire interview here – worth a read because it’s quite funny and interesting – and has some good advice for aspiring writers at the end):

Q: You’ve written both fiction and non-fiction. In one case in particular, a book that was labeled “non-fiction” should have been labeled “fiction” (through no fault of your own). For those Horror Bound readers who have a huge interest in the paranormal and who have followed the careers of Ed and Lorraine, what would you say?

 

A: Ah, the Warrens. Ed, of course, has gone to that great haunted house in the sky, but Lorraine is still around. Back in the early ‘90s, I was offered a chance to write a book for Ed and Lorraine. As a kid, I used to follow their ghost-hunting exploits in the National Enquirer. I thought it sounded like a fun job, so I took it. I went to Connecticut and spent time with the Snedeker family. They’d moved into a house with their sick son and learned the place used to be a funeral home. They claimed all kinds of spooky things had happened in the house. They’d called in Ed and Lorraine, and after investigating, the Warrens announced that the house was infested with demons. Some of these demons had anally raped members of the family.

A little aside here. Back when I was reading about the Warrens, they were ghost hunters. Every house they investigated had at least one ghost, and there was always a spooky story behind it. But after The Exorcist was so wildly popular, first as a novel and then as a movie, Ed and Lorraine stopped encountering ghosts and began to uncover demon infestations. And it seems that wherever they went, people were being sexually molested by demons. Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

Carmen Snedeker was an unemployed wife and mother who was running an illegal interstate lottery business, about which she asked me numerous times to tell no one. I never met the son, who was said to be ill, although I was allowed to talk to him on the phone once, supervised by Carmen. When the boy began to talk about drugs and told me that he didn’t hear and see strange things in the house once he began taking medication, Carmen ended the conversation. As I gathered all the necessary information for the book, I found that the accounts of the individual Snedekers didn’t quite mesh. They just couldn’t keep their stories straight. I went to Ed with this problem. “Oh, they’re crazy,” he said. “Everybody who comes to us is crazy. Otherwise why would they come to us? You’ve got some of the story – just use what works and make the rest up. And make it scary. You write scary books, right? That’s why we hired you. So just make it up and make it scary.” I didn’t like that one bit. But by then, I’d signed the contract and there was no going back. I did as Ed instructed – I used what I could, made up the rest, and tried to make it as scary as I could. The book was called In A Dark Place: The Story of a True Haunting.

As soon as it was published, I started telling my story, knowing full well that it would not be too popular with the Snedekers or the Warrens. I was right. Carmen Snedeker, now Carmen Reed, has denounced the book. She claims they had little involvement in it, which is a lie. Since the release of that book, the Discovery Channel has aired a “re-enactment” of the story called A Haunting in Connecticut, which, of course, presents the Snedekers’ story as hard cold fact. Now a feature film based on the story is going to be released soon called The Haunting in Connecticut. I suspect the movie will begin with the words “Based on a true story.” Be warned: Just about anything that begins with any variation of this phrase is trying a little too hard to convince you of something that probably isn’t true. Last I heard, Carmen is working on a new book, to tell the real story – apparently they’ve settled on one. I don’t know if Carmen runs her little interstate lottery operation anymore, but now she’s claiming to be some kind of psychic healer. She says she’s always been a psychic healer, although I didn’t hear anything about it in Connecticut back in the early ‘90s.

These days, John Zaffis is the “investigator” being used to make this cockamamie tale look like something remotely resembling legitimate. Zaffis is the nephew of Ed and Lorraine Warren. He was around back when I was working on the book. He didn’t do much, just stood around. Lorraine told me he was learning the business. He told me a story about something he saw in the former funeral home – some kind of “fully formed demon,” or some such nonsense.

During my stay in Connecticut, Ed, Lorraine, and Zaffis repeatedly told me they had videotape of supernatural activity they’d shot in the demon-infested former funeral home (which I never visited because the current owners claimed the Snedekers were full of it and wanted nothing to do with the Warrens’ little dog and pony show). They assured me I would see that footage. Throughout my visit, they kept telling me the videotape was coming, that they were having trouble finding it, but they’d show it to me. By the end of my visit, there had been no sign of any videotape. After my experience with the Warrens, I talked to a couple of other writers who’d written books for Ed and Lorraine – and their stories were nearly identical to mine.

I found another message board thread on dejanews where Garton posted, and he had the following things to say about the Warrens:

I spent several days with the Warrens during that time.  I spent time with them in their home and ate with them and went on long drives with them.  Of the two, Lorraine is the sanest.  She’s an “enabler”.  Years ago, before their career in the “supernatural” began, Ed suffered from mental illness.  It was bad enough to keep him from working, and the only way he could make money was to hand paint haunted houses on dinnerplates and sell them door to door.  Once Ed decided that Lorraine was “psychic”, selling the haunted house plates eventually led to “investigating” haunted houses.  At first, they found “ghosts”.  But after the tremendous success of THE EXORCIST — both the novel and the movie — ghosts suddenly became demons.  If you go back and trace their career, you can see the sudden change.  Almost overnight, all ghosts were really demons trying to possess residents, and sooner or later, the demons anally raped someone. It never fails, every damned time, the Warrens’ demons bend somebody over a bed or a sink and beat down the back door, if you know what I mean.  From my time spent with the Warrens, I learned from Ed that their job is not really to “investigate” so much as it is to take the stories told by these families — most of whom are dealing with REAL problems like alcoholism, drug addiction, mental illness, and/or domestic abuse, problems that are buried by their supernatural fantasies, which are supported and made tangible by the very eager Warrens — and arrange them into a saleable package that will make a good book, and hopefully a movie.

Not only are the Warrens frauds, not only do they give a bad name to people who are SERIOUSLY investigating paranormal phenomena, I think they’re EVIL because of the way they exploit families already deep in despair and ready to shatter. I can ignore a simple con job … but the Warrens are actually damaging people who are already damaged, who are desperate and vulnerable, using them for the sake of a book, maybe a lucrative movie sale, or another story to add to their traveling dog and pony show.  Before I worked on that book, I’d followed the adventures of Ed and Lorraine Warren faithfully since I was a little boy.  I was excited to work with them.  Boy, was that a big disappointment.  It’s nice to believe there’s a smiling, grandparently couple out there chasing demons … but not when you know they’re hurting people for the sake of publicity and the almighty dollar.
What investigative journalist Joe Nickell found
Skeptical paranormal investigator Joe Nickell wrote a very insightful article entitled ‘Demons in Connecticut’. The article can be found here.
In it, Nickell discusses the background of the Snedeker family and why he thinks it was all made up for media exploitation.  It’s particularly interesting because Nickell was actively involved in trying to debunk the story when it first came to light and was being discussed on talk shows.  There are plenty of quotes from people who lived around the Snedekers who claim it’s all fake, and suggestions of how some of the paranormal activities could be rationally explained.

Concluding thoughts – so what actually happened?

After reading Garton and Nickell, I was ready to write the whole Snedeker haunting off as shameless attention-seeking and media exploitation.  But then I came across this message board, where two posters (brothers) claimed to have lived in the house after the Snedekers. Well, the problem is that their identities can’t be verified, but what they’ve written seems genuine enough.  And according to them, the house was definitely haunted, just not to the extent grossly exaggerated by the Snedekers.  There were voices, loud footsteps, swinging doors – but that was about it.

As someone who believes in ghosts, a former funeral home would be a prime candidate for a haunting.  And as someone who has done a fair bit of reading on ghosts, I understand that different people have different sensitivities to these types of things.  Further, people who are fit and healthy are less likely to experience things than people who are ill.  So it is possible that the house was haunted, and perhaps the Snedekers, with their sick son and multitude of problems, experienced more of it than other people.  But just about everything else points to shameless exploitation for a bit of money.

My guess is that there were probably a few spooky things that happened at the house (paranormal or not), but nothing as dramatic as they claim (and certainly none of the crap in the movie).  But when the Warrens got involved, things just spiralled out of control and it became nothing more than a money-making venture.  Assume you believe in ghosts for a minute – okay, it’s a funeral home, lots of dead bodies, so maybe a lost soul here or there – but why all these raging demons who like to molest people?  In real life (unlike in the film) there were no explanations offered, no dark history of torture or mutilation uncovered, no ancient burial ground or corpses in the cellar.

And come on, if you had something as terrifying as demons trying to anally rape you, would you stay in the house for another second?  I don’t care if you don’t have another dime in the bank – you wouldn’t just keep the lights on and go back to bed!

(SPOILERS!) FACT VS FILM (SPOILERS!)

Read on if you have seen the film or don’t plan on seeing it.

After looking into the facts behind the story, it seems there were only a few similarities between the film and the true story on which it was based.  We know that a family did move into a house that was formerly a funeral home, and they did it to be closer to the treatment facility for their son, who was suffering from cancer (Hodgkin’s disease).  We also know that the son did undergo some drastic changes in personality, and he would eventually recover, but he was probably nowhere near death as suggested in the film.  There were probably some alcohol and financial problems too.

Apart from that, just about everything else was different.  The Snedekers had 3 sons (aged 13, 11 and 3) and a 6-year old daughter.  2 nieces would move in with them later.  There was another tenant living upstairs.  Most significantly, there was no elaborate back story about a young medium boy who conducted seances, no stolen graves, no dead bodies stashed away in the basement, no dying reverend who happens to know everything, no carvings on the body, no box of human eyelids hidden under the floorboards, and certainly no burning down of the house.

As for the ghosts and paranormal events that happened in the house, only a few people know the truth, but the one thing we know for sure is that they were nothing like what was depicted in the movie.  ‘Based on the true story’?  Hardly.  Maybe more appropriate would be: ‘Inspired by events that may or may not have happened’ – but I guess that doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.