On the first night that my family sleeps in our recently purchased home, I lay awake in our second floor bedroom, listening to every groan the house makes. It's a cottage-style brick home on a quiet street in southern Virginia, built in the 1940s.
Twice I take an investigative trip down the long flight of creaky hardwood stairs. The central air contracts our house's ventilation system, then shuts off and allows warmer air to pour through the duct work, causing it to expand and make a furnace-like popping sound that reverberates throughout the house. And I'm convinced that someone is on the verge of murdering all of us.
When I'm given over to this fear, that odd smell in our basement isn't a mustiness that needs aired out—it's a cancerous mold. That not-quite-normal looking mosquito bite protruding from my wife's leg is probably a poisonous spider bite, from a kind of spider that doesn't exist near our former home in central Pennsylvania. When the neighbor acts a touch reserved when we meet him, he must not like us—he probably hates us. He probably resents the fact that we haven't been able to set our trash out yet, and so it's piling up right beside the boundary line of our yards.
Maybe he's the one inside the air ducts.
In a new house, in a new city, every sound, space, and person is new in an alien way. We don't yet feel "at home." And in a newly inhabited older house, in particular, our acute awareness of every creak, groan, and smell—and the seemingly imminent threat presented by these strange impositions on our senses—doesn't get old until we get settled in to that particular locale. And when you've just purchased the house, you're anxious that something may go horribly wrong. What if it never feels like home?
I'd imagine that these sorts of fears are common to the human experience, and so are always fresh with each particular experience of them. That's why, though some say James Wan's recently released horror thriller The Conjuring (which boasts its own memorable haunted house) is too reliant on genre tropes, I'd offer this: the film's inventiveness is less about its content, and more about how it styles those conventions.
And, in answer to that question, The Conjuring is scary good.
Set in 1971, The Conjuring is about a young family, Carolyn and Roger Perron (Lili Taylor and Ron Livingston) and their five daughters. They buy and move into a decrepit farmhouse in Rhode Island. As you might guess, the house isn't so welcoming. Bruises begin appearing on legs, doors inexplicably squeak open and slam shut, and the dog has good reason for initially not wanting to come into the house.
These strange, paranormal happenings culminate in a terrifying night when Roger is away on business. Understandably spooked, Carolyn reaches out to Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga), a young married couple well known for devoting their lives to paranormal investigative work. Sincere, eager to help, and devout believers in God, Ed and Lorraine are "demonologists," who in unique ways seek to shine a light on the darkness.