Hitting Blu-ray and DVD today, The Conjuring scared up big business at the box office this summer by creating a very tense atmosphere that focused on the peril faced by a family after they unexpectedly encounter some very unhappy spirits. Set in 1971 and based on a true story, the movie follows mother and father (Lili Taylor and Ron Livingstone) and their children as they make a big, beautiful Rhode Island house their new home. But even before the truck-driving dad can make his first run, strange noises are heard and scary things are seen in the night. Soon, objects are falling off walls, and everyone becomes petrified by fear.
The parents waste no time in seeking help from reknowned paranormal investigators (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga), but they will spend increasingly terrifying nights before coming to any kind of resolution to their ghostly problems. The movie is rated R, not for extreme profanity or explicit bloodsheed or nudity, but "for sequences of disturbing violence and terror." The positive message is that the extremely frightened family draws strength from one another as they face down a horrible menace.
In itself, that focus on a large family -- mother, father and five daughters -- is unusual in a horror movie, with the added distinction of the family being frightened together. Traditionally, it's much more common to pit father against his family (as in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining) or mother against daughter (as in the new version of Carrie). In honor of families who stay together against all odds, here are four other frightened families who never lost sight of what's truly important in life, even when faced with death.
"They're here!" Little Carol Ann Freeling (Heather O'Rourke) has been in touch with the people who live in the television, which is an early sign that understandably concerns her parents (Craig T. Nelson and JoBeth Williams) and, to a lesser extent, her siblings (Dominique Dunne and Oliver Robins). Carol Ann's otherworldly communications lead to her disappearance, then it's up to her mother to save the day, but the family has to work together to have any hope of survival.
Disguised as a suspense thriller, Steven Spielberg's blockbuster is in fact one of the most terrifying films of the decade. If you doubt that, watch again the scene when Chief Brody (Roy Scheider) unwittingly puts his older son's life in danger. Chief Brody is frightened beyond belief throughout the movie -- he's afraid of the water, much less that man-eating shark -- but he loves his wife and two sons, and he'll do anything to take away the one thing that threatens all of them.
Not to be confused in any way with this year's young-adult offering with the same title, the Korean film proves that families are the same all over the world. This is not an easy movie to watch because a very young girl is snatched up by a monster and then deposited in its lair, where she remains frightened out of her wits. Her father, grandfather, aunt and uncle all step up to try and rescue her. It's heartening to see them come together, but, again, not an easy watch.
Admittedly, the family in Alfred Hitchcock's 1963 shocker is not a traditional nuclear unit. Strong and sturdy Rod Taylor lives with his mother (Jessica Tandy) and 11-year-old sister (Veronica Cartwright), and their family home becomes a refuge for the visiting Melanie (Tippi Hedren). The unusual family unit eventually bonds, as they must, in order to defend themselves against continued, mysterious attacks by increasing flocks of birds.
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