Welcome to our countdown to the most anxiety-inducing horror films for parents!  Today is day fourteen!

Each day, we are covering the films I both love and hate because they’re awesome and they give me panic attacks now that I’m a mom.

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In our review today, we take a look at another film based on the truth in Ed & Lorraine’s work as paranormal psychologists and ghost hunters.  These films are typically largely fiction, but what isn’t is that these occurrences always happened to families.  Children, fathers, and mothers were affected and infected in ways that had near devastating consequences.

Disclaimer: Trigger warnings are a given when you talk about horror, but I’m going to say it anyway.  Many subjects covered by horror films are disturbing to parents in ways we can’t possibly understand and each is unique to the parent and his/her experiences. Tread carefully and know your limits.  If this begins to be too much, there’s no shame in closing the window.  Also, this post contains some spoilers throughout. 

18. The Conjuring

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So, I admit.  I just saw this movie three days ago.  It came out when my daughter was a year old and after having been deeply thrown by severe postpartum anxiety and depression, I figured it was best to stay away from movies like this.  Far, far away.  But, since I knew it had to be on my list, it was time.

Since it’s one of the newer horror films, I honestly didn’t expect much.  The gratuitous gore and underwhelming stories we’ve all seen a thousand times have left me a bit dry.  So, I wasn’t expecting much, maybe a few jumps, probably some blood, maybe a graphic compound fracture or two and probably someone floating at some point.  I miss the old days of delayed gratification, haunting musical scores that sweep over you and stay with you for days after.  I long for the director who uses the “magic hour” to create a sense of desperation and loss without having to speak to those feelings directly.

I was pleasantly surprised when this film was both captivating, beautiful and severely disturbing in all the right ways.  It felt like the old days of horror where the importance really was on the suffering of the victims and telling a great story, not just on how scared or disgusted the audience could feel.  This, of course, made it more frightening, more real and a much better film than most I’ve seen in recent years.

As a parent of two small children watching this movie for the first time, there were so many feelings floating around.  After my first child was born, I was thrown into a severe chemical/hormonal imbalance.  I struggled with feeling sick, worried I was going to get hurt or fall victim to some unknown disease.  I had bruises that couldn’t be explained, I heard voices, saw shadows and lived with a deep sense of fear that if I did not hold my child close and watch over him at all times, he, or I, could die.

This movie brought many of those feelings back as I watched the mother encounter the same experiences but because of a demonic presence, not any sort of chemical imbalance.  As I watched her fall deeper into the grip of the monster of the house, I watched her children being terrorized by things unseen or only seen by them.

How often do we discredit our children who tell us they see things we cannot?  How often do we pat them on the head and say things like, “sure honey… I believe you” when they tell you there are things hiding in the corners of their rooms?  It’s true stories like this that remind us the shadows we don’t admit we see, the fear we swallow as we close the shade on a dark window, hoping nothing stares back at you from the darkness or in the reflection of the glass from behind you are sometimes not as imaginary as we wish they were.

Same thing with our pets.  Our animals understand things we don’t.  We just get irritated with them and tell them to stop barking, stop being annoying, stop freaking out for no reason, but what if there really is a reason and we are just not listening to them?  …And while we are on that topic, seriously – we all know that if there is a sweet dog in a movie like this, chances are they’re going to die, right?

There were a few things that made this movie hard to watch as a mom with anxiety:

1; Watching the children be terrorized in this house, manipulated and messed with by something unseeable was hard to see.  I can’t imagine my children having to go through something like this and as a result of this and other movies like it, I am certain I would trust them and do all I could to help them through those feelings and experiences if they told me they were having them.  It wouldn’t take seeing this above their beds for me to believe them.  At least, I hope it wouldn’t.

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2; I feel like I had a lot in common with this mom.  She was making the best of her situation and loved her children deeply.  They were her entire world and her whole life revolved around them.  She stood up for them and didn’t hide from the monsters.  She walked toward the shadows and the voices, she threatened them, demanded they show themselves, thinking she could intimidate them with her strength and desire to protect her children.

She was wrong and got her ass kicked, quite literally.  I’m pretty sure if I were in that situation, I’d have done the same thing… walking toward the creaking floorboards and screaming out demands to show themselves, trying to command them with my Will.  Would I have ended up like her, consumed with the darkness of a monster and nearly murdering my child?  The thought is too horrifying to dwell on.

3; The monster moved outside the “haunting space”.  An ability only having been seen before in Ringu/The Ring, the ghost/demon/monster moved away from the confines of an item or a house, a well or a doll and passed through a necklace into another necklace, to torment another child in another house in another town.

This changes everything.  I studied all this stuff years ago when I had wanted to be a parapsychologist and one thing was always very clear; spirits attach themselves to items, locations or people.  They can be shifted from one person to another within a confined space, or passed between locations by moving an item they are attached to, but they are present within that space, only.  Just like people – they cannot be in two places at once and if their presence is linked to someone or something, it cannot just randomly manifest someplace else.  This film changed the rules and brought to light another reality, one I hadn’t studied as much but is apparently well known in the Catholic community: Demons don’t need a sympathetic item to bind them to anyone or anything.  They are above such needs because they were never people first.

So, the whole …. let’s get away from the house, throw the item in the trash and salt, burn and toss the ashes to the winds solution absolutely would not work on this kind of monster.  Just like in The Ring, the real anxiety here comes from the fact that it transcends a safe space.  There is no barrier of protection, outside faith, to keep you safe and even then, it might not be enough.

There was one last element that had me in tears as the film closed that I wanted to bring up.  The story is heartbreaking, as most ghost stories are.  The reality that this has happened so many times before in this house, that for generations, this monster was manipulating mothers to murder their children in horrifying ways, had me in tears as the credits began to roll.

So, in this film we have random bruising, unexplained injuries, a malevolent spirit, a benevolent spirit, three dead mother-spirits, a demon, a witch, a possessed mother, terrified children, and a rickety old house.  Perfect film for a parent who has anxiety, right?

Well, one thing I am 100% sure of after seeing this – we will absolutely not in any way for any reason EVER play “hide and clap” in my, or anyone else’s house.  Ever.

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Tomorrow’s pick carries the seal of Ed & Lorraine Warren’s legacy, another film for another beautiful, hazy, October day.  Stay tuned!

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