Documentary Review: The “Conjuring” house goes AirBnB — “The Sleepless Unrest”

It doesn’t look like much. The Harrisville, Rhode Island home might not get a lot of second or third looks on Zillow. “Needs paint” translates as “rustic” and “historic.” “Low ceilings” just means its out of date.

But “historic” is right on the mark. This 300 year-old wood frame/clapboard house is where the events depicted in “The Conjuring” took place. And while one person describes it as “the most famous haunted house in the world,” and dude plainly needs to visit Amityville, New York like everybody else, it’s still rather infamous.

An opening credit parks “The Sleepless Unrest” in the post “Paranormal Activity” mania of amateur “researchers” looking for a piece of that reality TV/streaming/podcasting audience, because people can’t get enough of “ghosts exist, here’s proof” content.

It’s amazing how many people there are out there on hunt, serving up “You guys, this REALLY happened” to the public. But considering the stunning success of the “The Conjuring/Amityville/Annabelle” universe and the “Insidious” films (which feature their very own comical “Ghostbusters”), it’s understandable.

“Sleepless Unrest” involves amateurs showing up with cameras, motion detectors and other “repurposed” gear” as they investigate “The Conjuring” House. The new owners, Jennifer and Cory Heinzen won’t say so. But if they’re not AirBnB’ing this place — charging for the privilege of getting spooked and getting “answers” — they’re missing the boat.

Filmmaker/researchers Vera and Kendall Whelpton made the movie, and invited along fellow enthusiasts Richel Stratton and Brian Murray. They set up cameras, “sensors” and the like, carry around GoPro cameras and are filmed by a lean film crew themselves as they do all this.

There’s time-lapse footage of doors opening, books falling off shelves and other objects tipping over. We hear thumps and creaks, although not nearly as loudly as those involved, who crawl around an unfinished attic, poke around a stone-walled basement and even drop into an old basement well, hunting for evidence and getting a little bug-eyed over what they “sense” on occasion.

They play up the drama of everything they’re doing — hyping, taking “risks” and the like — and show us what they find.

Leave aside the lack of a true “This PROVES it!” moment. Skip over the hilarious over-reactions to hearing noises and seeing “lights” in the woods (plainly city slickers) or “finding” a never-really-lost old cemetery. Take into account that with the right music, anything is scary, even time lapse shots of snow melting off a windshield.

Hang on to your skepticism. That’s allowed.

Even with all those eyebrow raising points, let’s just say that “The Sleepless Unrest” convinces us that they were convinced by…something.

And as the “effects” are so simple that it’d be hard to believe anyone would go to the trouble of faking them, let’s just say that what these folks saw and experienced was intriguing, just interesting enough (occasionally, not often, which makes for a dull documentary) to make you go, “Damn. What did THAT?”

MPA Rating: unrated, profanity

Cast: Vera Whelpton, Kendall Whelpton, Jennifer Heinzen, Cory Heinzen, Richel Stratton, Brian Murray,

Credits: Directed by Kendall and Vera Whelpton. A Gravitas Ventures release.

Running time: 1:21

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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