The Possessed – The Watseka Wonder

image I should have learned my lesson, but that’s what I get for giving something a second chance. I previously watched Children of the Grave which turned out to be an extremely poor documentary on children who lost their lives and their identities within the walls of the orphanages. But I was willing to take a chance and see if time and experience would let the Booth Brothers make a documentary worth watching. Sadly, that’s not the case.

The Possessed is a telling of the story documented as "The Watseka Wonder" where a young woman who is supposedly possessed, dies and then comes back to possess the body of another young girl in the same town.

Again, the story is a jumbled mess that jumps from history to present day interviews with teenagers who "cut" themselves and claim it’s possession, to a high school class full of students, to an investigation, back to historical lore, over to the emo teenagers, then back to the past. It makes absolutely no sense and turns what could have been an interesting story into something you just don’t care about. The "re-enactments" are just plain horrible and everything they discuss is complete conjecture.

At the heart of the story is Mary Roff and Mary Lurancy Vennum, two girls who suffered from what we would now call epilepsy. Roff supposedly possessed the body of Vennum after her death. The story goes into mental illness and how it was so largely misunderstood and the lack of treatment. But as we listen it becomes pretty clear that Vennum was indeed suffering from epilepsy and more than likely some form of split personality disorder. Considering almost all forms of mental illness were considered possession by the devil during the 1800s, it’s a pretty big injustice to keep following that line.

But like the other film, Children of the Grave, the Booth Brother can’t quite decide if they want to make a horror film or a documentary. They jump from events of the past and the Vennum story to talk to teenagers who cut themselves, teenagers who claim they did it while possessed. They can’t possibly have their own mental illness or psychological damage, it must be possession.

The entire film quickly becomes a farce. These guys desperately want to remake the Exorcist and bring out cheap theatrics whenever they can. After a few minutes it becomes so annoying it’s hard to pay attention let alone care about the story. I gave up before I hit the end. These guys are just feeding into the hysteria. Instead of gather facts and analyzing them for what they are, they’re desperately trying to build up demonic possession. They claim the children could read books without opening them, could see through envelopes, and showed signs of being clairvoyant. Not for one second do they try to dispel a single one of these myths. If you do a few minutes worth of research you will find this story is universally considered to be a hoax.

Clearly no more Booth Brothers movies for me. They suck.


Watseka Wonder

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Children of the Grave

image As I browsed around the Amazon catalog of paranormal titles, I came across a "documentary" called Children of the Grave. It documents the lost children of an orphanage that died and were buried in a mass grave. As is so common with stories during this time period, the children were stripped of their identity and referred to by numbers rather than names. But what should have been a look at this institution turns into a "mockumentary" full of ridiculous "re-enactments" and a story that jumps all over the place to the point of being unintelligible. What should have been a somber and sobering subjects comes across as foolish.

The Booth Brothers drag this story over the coals and jumble it up so badly that you don’t know if this is supposed to be a documentary or some make shift re-enactment of the Blair Witch Project. They over dramatize just about everything about this story. They color the sky surrounding the house, they add creaking and whispers every time they go into a location, they shake and jumble the picture as though it’s become taken over by something evil. None of this is necessary. They’re talking about children who were cast away by their parents and left to starve in an institution that couldn’t take care of them. What’s with all the theatrics?

And the story jumps all over the place. It goes from the past, to the present, to random interviews, to random pictures, to an investigation, back to the past, back to the investigation, then to another interview. There is absolutely no way to follow the story and how these people related to one another. And then we find ourselves in a classroom talking to high school students. What the hell is going on here?

This all comes across as very silly which degrades from the overall point of the show. But then it utterly shifts gears and we’re on something called "The Zombie Road" look for shadow people that supposedly exist in the woods. The brothers are talking about children who died in the area as though something sinister is going on. They keep talking about this high body count, but have no real evidence in regards to any of this. They even bring in the local police, who say the place is dangerous, but that’s because it has rising flood water, broken down bridges, bad roads and you can get lost.

Children of the Grave was very disappointing and even frustrating. This whole documentary, and I use that term loosely, comes across as mockery of these poor souls. It’s as though these filmmakers started off making a historical drama and then it would sell better if they turned it into a horror file. It was indeed a waste of an hour and a half.

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The Conjuring – First Impression

image As I mentioned I was anxious to see The Conjuring and went to the midday show to beat the crowds and the heat. No problem with the crowds, only 10 people in theater for this early show.

The movie starts off slowly by introducing some past "cases" of Ed and Lorraine and giving a brief history of what they do. They also elude to some dark experience that Lorraine had during their last case.

Without giving the story away, as if you couldn’t predict it, the family this house for a real bargain and buys it sight unseen and without knowing anything of the history. Turns out some strange deeds have occurred and after going to one of their lectures, Carolyn (the mother) begs for the Warrens to come and investigate.

The first half of the movie is quite good, as small events begin to happen and we get drawn in. But then it goes too far into the Hollywood spectrum and you can quite literally pick out paranormal shows and horror movies. To me it was so blatant as to be distracting. Instead of letting this supernatural force reveal itself, it becomes this hodgepodge of stories that are supposed to be related, but the way it’s all crammed together is more confusing than engaging. The motive and the plot take a back seat to figures behind doors, bangs against the walls and faces showing up out of nowhere. Not to be cliche, but there doesn’t seem to be any motivation for any of this. There’s no context for any of it.

Overall it was pretty decent with some interesting moments and a glimpse to the early days of the paranormal. Unfortunately, it tries to emulate too many other movies with blatant scares and you sit there going, "I saw that in the Exorcist. That reminds me of Amityville. They’re setting up the house like Ghost Adventures." Perhaps we’ve become tainted and we forget the original source for all those Johnny Come Lately shows. Even so, the movie is a just fragile and doesn’t have a strong thread of story holding it all together. Like I said, it was pretty decent with some interesting elements and insights, but it "reminds" me of too many things and as such isn’t an original like it should be.

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The Conjuring – A Film About Ed and Lorraine Warren

I just found out about this movie and I have to admit, the trailers make this seem creepy as hell. The simple description of the movie reads as follows:

Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren work to help a family terrorized by a dark presence in their farmhouse. Forced to confront a powerful entity, the Warrens find themselves caught in the most terrifying case of their lives.

Normally, most of these style movies simply go to far and try to weave in as much shock value and spewing pea soup as they possibly can. I have no idea if the Warren’s were consulted on this movie or if this "based on real events" style movie is really based on factual events. But if the rest of the movie keeps the same atmosphere as these trailers then this could be one hell of an adventure.

The Conjuring opens this weekend, July 19 and I think I’m going to have to see it. I usually wait for these to hit video, but I’m willing to give this a shot. It has an R Rating and was directed by the makers of SAW. The original SAW was a tense and dramatic movie so perhaps they can bring that to The Conjuring.

I have no doubt this is sensationalized and attempts will be made to make this the new Amityville, but it definitely has my interest.

Who else plans to check out this movie for the weekend?

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