The 1970s are a scary decade because everything appears the same on the surface, cars, clothes, technology, so we can relate to what we see, yet somehow it has an otherworldly atmosphere. At times the seventies can seem like a strange, beige parallel universe where cholesterol was for sissies and sideburns mandatory (less so for women). With its most recent trailer The Conjuring, set in 1971, embraces this idea wholeheartedly.
Warner Bros. are pushing The Conjuring hard – and with good reason. It is directed by James Wan who made the original Saw (2004) and even more impressively Insidious, which was officially the most profitable movie of 2011. If this man wants to make a film about a real life paranormal investigator couple set in the most stylish decade of all time, we have to assume he is on to something. And from the looks of the footage so far The Conjuring seems less of a gamble than a dead cert. It’s creepy, old school shocks in an era that’s already frightening enough without dead people whispering in your ear when you’re trying to sleep.
Vera Farmiga as real life paranormal investigator Lorraine Warren. Google any images of her and you will see that high ruffle neckline.
James Wan’s go-to costume designer for The Conjuring is Kristin M. Burke. She created a line of terrifying Halloween outfits for Insidious (The Demon, Creepy Doll Girls, etc) and now plans to wreak more havoc on our shattered nerves. Also this is a period piece and, in essence at least, a true story. The paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorraine Warren (played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga), are real people. This is not only recreating a period; it is recreating someone’s life. As Ms. Burke explains exclusively to Clothes on Film:
‘It’s daunting to dress a person who is well-known in real life. Lorraine Warren has a very specific style that defies period, in a way. We did exhaustive research about her and Ed – we plastered the walls of our office with images. She came to visit set for a few days, and when she walked into our office, she just gasped. Can you imagine? Walking into a place that is covered with your pictures? She looked at my sketches and was just oohing and aahing. I gave her a couple of the original sketches to take home with her. She exclaimed, “I’m going to get these framed!”. That made me so happy. This is her LIFE on screen, and it’s a legacy of sorts. You really don’t want to mess that up.’
So although The Conjuring may look on paper to be haunted house horror where the only things that matter are a zippy script and convincing special effects, this is selling the film short – particularly with regards to costume design. Yes, there are polyester suits and jabot necklines, but that was the 1970s. What matters most is that we believe what we see. In this respect we can thank Kristin M. Burke for scaring the bejesus out of us.
The Conjuring is released on 19th July.
You can watch Vera Farmiga in Safe House at LOVEFiLM.com.
© 2013 – 2014, Lord Christopher Laverty.