Monday, October 6, 2014

The Conjuring

Directed by James Wan.
2013. Rated R, 112 minutes.
Lili Taylor
Shanley Caswell
Hayley McFarland
Joey King
Mackenzie Foy
Kyla Deaver
Shannon Kook

It’s 1971 and the Perron family, Carolyn (Taylor), Roger (Livingston), and their five daughters, moves into their new house which is certainly a fixer-upper. Shortly thereafter they discover a basement that was completely boarded up and add that to the to-do-list. Of course, things start going bump in the night and scaring the bejeezus out of everyone in the house. When things get to be too much Carolyn seeks out the help of renowned demonologists Ed (Wilson) and Lorraine (Farmiga) Warren. More strange stuff ensues. All of this is kinda-sorta supposedly allegedly maybe based on a true story.

What The Conjuring does best is simply be what it is, an old fashioned haunted house flick. In spite of this, the movie succeeds. Somehow, instead of being a lame, by-the-numbers affair, it milks the formula for all its worth. It is, at once, a call back to an era gone by and a breath of fresh air. The tension builds steadily until the whole situation erupts in the final act. While we wait to get to that point we settle into the sweet spot of having a good idea how things are going to happen but still being glued to the screen to watch it play out.

Almost everyone on the screen feels like a stock character. This is a bit of a drawback, but everyone plays their roles so well it hardly matters. The ladies stand tall in this crowd, starting with Lili Taylor as mom Carolyn. She is the vessel through which we experience the movie. She gives a superb performance displaying a woman whose mental state is steadily decaying as the inexplicable keeps happening around her. As someone who has already gone through some odd things in her life, Vera Farmiga is nearly as good. By the way, Farmiga’s character Lorraine and her husband Ed are indeed based on the real-life couple of the same name and job description. In fact, they were the first paranormal investigators on the scene of the infamous Amityville Horror. Perhaps not so coincidentally, this movie bears a healthy resemblance to that genre giant.

As good as the acting is, for me, the key lies in our ghosts. There is a sense that something bad could happen to these people at any moment. They feel like a real threat. This is completely opposite of director James Wan’s other haunted house flick, Insidious. In that movie, the haunters come off as benign. They never seem like they’re really out to get the family in the house. They show up, mug for the camera and disappear. Here, they add a much more real sense of danger, making this a much more interesting ride. Where Insidious is overwrought and plodding, this one snaps, crackles, and pops.

MY SCORE: 7.5/10


  1. Seems you liked this film more than I did. The Conjuring I had a lukewarm reaction to. when it was released I recall I was out on my own with that opinion. I liked the first Saw movie by the same director, but James Wan’s others films (Insidious and The Conjuring) I was bored by, I think I gave both a 6/10. Oh well, you can't love everything!

    1. I enjoyed this one a lot, same goes for Saw. I actually hated Insidious and was lukewarm on its sequel. The Conjuring worked much better, I thought.

  2. Stock characters aren't usually so effective outside of comedy, but sounds like it works well here.

    1. It's the performances of these characters that makes them work. The cast is really good.

  3. The Conjuring was marketed as the scariest movie ever...or something along that line...which created a certain level of expectation. Which it did not meet, I found the Conjuring underwhelming. There were a few scares here and there but overall was just not that scary. And when it started being a possession lost me. I guess I'm the opposite in that I prefer Insidious.
    Wandering through the Shelves

    1. I think I actually preferred that it wasn't 'scary' as such, they seemed to avoid the cheap scare tactics (paranormal activity style) instead opted for an actual story. There was moments where I had my jumper over my eyes because I thought something was going to jump out but they didn't play on that, they focused on the characters and their response to the story rather than the audiences response.

    2. To be honest, I didn't have the expectation of it being scary because I don't find any of them to be. Besides, every horror movie is marketed that way. They are all the "most chilling horror movie since..." I enjoyed the way the story played out and the performances of the characters. I also enjoyed that there actually seemed to be a threat to these people. With Insidious, I never felt that way.