‘The Sleepless Unrest’ traps us in ‘The Conjuring’ house

Filmmakers Kendall and Vera Whelpton’s new horror documentary spends two weeks in the home made famous by the 2013 film.


Kendall Whelpton shoots the outside of ‘The Conjuring’ house in Rhode Island.

Pepper Bough, 2021

Jeremiah Dollins, Pepper Bough Adviser

“We knew we had something different going into this. It’s ‘The Conjuring’ home.”

“The Sleepless Unrest: The Real Conjuring House,” a horror documentary from Kendall and Vera Whelpton, unlocks new rooms in the paranormal investigation genre. By integrating some tried and true tricks with a less formulaic approach to the storytelling, the Whelptons have come across a fresh approach to the haunted house doc.

The origin of this film was surprisingly impromptu. Kendall—a cinematographer on the A&E “Ghost Hunters” series—and Vera, herself a paranormal investigator, were approached with a delicious offer: two weeks in the Rhode Island farmhouse that inspired the events of James Wan’s blockbuster 2013 horror film[1], “The Conjuring.”

Owners Cory and Jennifer Heinzen stand outside the infamous ‘Conjuring’ farmhouse.

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kendall and Vera were on a phone call with their friends, Brian and Richelle, when Brian floated an invitation to hang out together for a couple weeks at “The Conjuring” home. “It just happened,” Kendall said. “Basically, I don’t know if this has ever been done before, where you get a call and two weeks later you just jump in your car with your cameras and you’re just documenting everything.”

This spur of the moment excitement defines the film. Instead of a methodical introduction outlining the history of the haunted home, the Whelptons and their friends dive right into the pleasures of a group of people ecstatic to chase down ghosts at one of America’s most notable haunts. In horror movie tradition, we spend time upfront getting to know Kendall, Vera, and their friends, Brian and Richelle. They also introduce us to the current owners of the farmhouse, Cory and Jennifer Heinzen. Everyone is bubbling over like a group of teenagers waiting in line to get into Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios. Elation and trepidation stand out in equal measure. The energy is contagious.

In some ways, “The Sleepless Unrest” is like an extended episode of “Ghost Hunters.” There is the camera set-up, the exploration, moments of fright at the unseen. We get plenty of long, expectant takes scored with ominous tones. What separates this film from the rest of the pack is the warmth of our investigators and a few creepy moments, especially in the house’s basement where there just so happens to be a curious well. There is also an attic space with a pentagram traced out on some ash. And musical sensors that get triggered in the middle of the night. Fans of the genre will not be disappointed.

Yet, there is a little disappointment to be had. While the Whelptons are open about how the immediacy of the invitation did not give them much time to do proper research, it still leaves a mark on the film. Vera suggested it was a means to maintain objectivity in the face of contradicting information. “We confirmed with the homeowners that, yes indeed there is a lot of misinformation. So, this documentary wasn’t about setting straight or saying who’s wrong and who’s right. It was about a new chapter of this famous location.”

Still, because there is no direct mention of the home’s history, there is an assumption the audience already knows quite a bit about it. This becomes awkward when their friend Brian finds a mysterious note folded in a book and says, “Wouldn’t it be crazy if I opened it and it said ‘Bathsheba’?” Sure, it is safe to assume anyone watching “The Sleepless Unrest” has seen “The Conjuring,” but without additional non-fictional context, the audience has no choice but to believe everything that happened in the fictional film was real.

I am certain this qualm qualifies me as a buzzkill. Otherwise, “The Sleepless Unrest” is a clever paranormal documentary that delivers the chills and thrills.

“The Sleepless Unrest: The Real Conjuring House” will screen in select theaters and be available on VOD starting July 16, 2021.



[1] The information surrounding the farm on Round Top Road is mired in myth, superstition, and anger. On one side, you have the case files of Ed and Lorraine Warren, the demonologists about whom “The Conjuring” film series is based. They were, by some accounts, charlatans. Meanwhile, the stories about the Rhode Island farmhouse, which was at one point owned by the Perron family, is one the Perrons—especially daughter Andrea—have continually validated. There are still those who think their tale is far-fetched. Before the Heinzens purchased the home, the previous owners released a video on YouTube in which they discuss the problems of owning this home in the aftermath of the movie and debunk the paranormal claims.