The Conjuring Review
No wonder everybody I have talked to is going nuts for "The Conjuring," it has become a word-of-mouth phenomenon. All of this I feel is for good reason. After critics and audiences alike have been smitten by this film, I had to check it out ASAP. I am so happy I did too, because "The Conjuring," is a smart, confident, elegant and yes, spooky horror film. I think I may go ahead and say that "The Conjuring" is the best horror film I have seen in a few years.
The film's director, James Wan, is slowly but surely perfecting the art of the haunted house movie. Not only did he direct this but he also directed "Insidious" a 2011 movie that also shocked the hell out of me. Both "Insidious" and "The Conjuring" are effective because neither film relies on gore to provoke reactions from the audience. Both films use atmosphere, mood and creepy images to scare, and I think "The Conjuring" does a nicer job than "Insidious" did. Wan is returning later this year with "Insidious 2" which I cannot wait to see. Wan has come along way from his work on the "Saw" franchise, "Dead Silence" and "Death Sentence." He has traded wicked bag of tricks in substitution for gore and blood, and his latest films are stronger overall because of it.
Set in the 1970's, the film revolves around Ed and Lorraine Warren, two demonologists who have given their lives over to tracking down paranormal happenings and either confirming or debunking them. In the story, they try to help the Perron family who witness strange occurrences in their new home. James Wan effectively captures the feel and vibe of the 1970's. The music, tone, costumes, and sets are all perfect and even those little things add to the scares. Ed Warren is played by Patrick Wilson (who worked with Wan on "Insidious"), Vera Farmiga plays Lorraine Warren and Lily Taylor and Ron Livingston play the Perron parents. These four actors are artists I admire quite a bit, and they do splendid work here. The film features a clever screenplay written by Chad and Carey Hayes, and has smart dialogue throughout.
Like I said already, I love that the movie doesn't rely on gore and brutal killings to scare the audience. Normally, in most modern horror films, nobody dies without a relentless, exaggerated, bloody death. Torture porn has never been my favorite venue as far as horror films go, when a film can create a strict mood, gloomy atmosphere, paranoid characters and timed boo-scares. That alone can make all the difference in the world. This is a movie that builds entirely on blink-and-you'll-miss-it imagery, intense build-up, and the limited make-up and CGI used in the film are used with purpose. I watched most of "The Conjuring" through the holes in my hands, which I take as a very good sign.
There is a scene where Ed Lorraine is walking and talking to a reporter and leads him into a room in his house featuring artifacts of all the cases his wife and him helped with. I got so giddy when I saw this, and Wilson gives just enough of a tease to make it effective. "The Conjuring" could become the next big spook franchise. I will be waiting and there if they want to create a series out of this film. As something like the "Paranormal Activity" franchise is starting to look familiar, "The Conjuring" franchise could produce great scares for years to come.
"The Conjuring" doesn't elevate the genre in any way. Even for being based on a true story, most of it feels pretty familiar, lots is borrowed from films like "The Exorcist" and "The Amityville Horror." However, James Wan and the great cast and crew create something truly special. This is going to be a Halloween favorite to watch on blu-ray this coming October, mark my words. I can't wait to see what James Wan does next, but he is a name to look for when it comes to horror now. If you haven't checked this one out, invite a bunch of your friends and go. This is an audience movie, first and foremost. But it is also a eerie tale that will have you jumping and screaming throughout. I could not ask for more from the horror genre.
FINAL GRADE: A-