What do you feel when you see the words “Based on a true story” on the movie screen? It’s supposed to inspire our trust. It’s supposed to engender a contract between storyteller and listener that you needn’t worry about suspending your disbelief because you can believe everything we’re about to show you. But then an enormous amount of license given to filmmakers who use this phrase. As a matter of fact…there are NO rules governing its use.
For example, I can tell a story about a guy named Bob who was abducted by aliens then when he was returned he was possessed by demons, won the lottery, was set on fire by invisible leprechauns who then genetically cloned him and he ended up falling in love with his clone and fighting for gay marriage rights in one of the red states and winning a stunning victory in the Supreme Courts for not only gay marriage, but for clone rights everywhere…and as long as I know a guy named BOB…I can say it’s based on a true story because there is a guy named Bob! See what I mean?
The Conjuring, I’d say by far the scariest movie of 2013…maybe of the whole last decade, boasts this claim. There have been books documenting the events, there have been taped interviews, there have been all kinds of documents that supposedly verify the events of the film. Even the demonologists being portrayed served as consultants on the film.
My question is, does the fact that we are told REALLY affect how the film is received as a story? Does it impact at all how we view the events if we know in the back of our mind that what we see actually happened to someone? At what point do we question what we see as TRUE or embellished? I mean there are tons of “Based on a true story” that have almost NOTHING to do with the actual historical events they were culled from: The Hurricane, Rudy, Good Morning Vietnam, The Pursuit of Happiness, 21, Lean on Me, Victory…the list goes on!
A film so good and so scary as The Conjuring doesn’t suffer from its claims of authenticity, but it’s so well done…it doesn’t need them either. I mean Catholic Priests were called in to film showings of this movie in the Philippines to bless the theaters and the movie goers as they came out. They also provided spiritual counseling after the film for those who felt the needed it. Gimmick? Perhaps, but it’s one I bet William castle had thought of!