Director: James Wan
Starring: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Lili Taylor, Ron Livingston, Mackenzie Foy, Joey King
Most scary movies lure their audiences in with the premise that it is based off of a true story. The Conjuring, however, managed to make number one at the box office it’s opening weekend with the premise that “No really, guys, this is really based on a true story.” It is a recounting of one particularly horrifying case of Ed and Lorraine Warren’s, the two most recognized and renowned paranormal experts whose work has inspired others movies as well, including The Amityville Horror. Wan does an excellent job with this story, giving it a solid plot, lots of intensity, and enough scares to have you sleeping with a nightlight for the next couple nights.
Plot: Set in the 70’s, the Perrons (Taylor and Livingston) and their 5 daughters have just moved into their new, creeptastic home. It doesn’t take the family long to realize they are not alone in the house. A steady chain of paranormal events begins to occur that makes them come to the realization that their house may be possessed by some sort of entity. As whatever is haunting the house becomes more violent and disruptive each and every night, they decide it’s time to seek out some help. They enlist the help of Ed and Lorraine Warren (Wilson and Farmiga), well-known ghost hunters in the area. Soon, the Warrens find themselves up against the most malevolent and relentless spirits they have ever come across.
The Conjuring doesn’t waste any time getting right into the creepy stuff. The first night the Perrons spend in the house they notice all sorts of strange happenings. These little happenings keep building right up until the film gets really intense at it’s climax. Full of jump scares, this movie will certainly have you on the edge of your seat. I’m usually not a huge fan of jump scares. I think they come across as a cheap attempt in order to scare the audience by simply surprising them with a loud noise at the end of 30 seconds of intense silence. There is plenty of that in this movie, but I thought it was well done as those moments always added to the story and brought us to some truly scary moments. The fact that the MPAA rated this film R not because of nudity, language, or blood or violence but because of solely it’s “disturbing content” might give you an idea of what kind of scary The Conjuring is about.
Another thing I appreciated from this movie was the make up and visual effects of the paranormal entities. It wasn’t over the top to where they come across as almost humorous and it didn’t really look like they used CGI or anything. The moments where we see the ghosts aren’t really the focus of the film, either. It’s the moments where we can’t see the ghosts but can see the havoc they are wreaking on this family is what truly scares us. That’s what really makes a scary movie good in the long run, is that behind the visual effects and jump scares, we are left with actual fear and dread for this family.
On top of those things, the acting in this film is all top notch, from the seasoned horror movie vets to the younger kids. Especially Joey King, who plays the third youngest (?) of the five daughters, there is a scene with her that I found to be one of the most scariest of the movie and her acting of absolute terror was great in it. Lili Taylor, who plays the mother, was definitely impressive as well as she is the center of most of the scenes in which the paranormal activities happen. Of course, Farmiga and Wilson had some great chemistry as the Warrens. What worked really well for the movie was the interconnection of the Warrens and the Perrons and how their stories wove together. It kept the movie interesting and was the source of giving the movie a different dynamic than your average haunted house story.
I actually saw this movie one and a half times. The first time I had to walk out of the theater about 45 minutes into the movie because the people in the audience were just too rowdy for me to get into the story at all. The second time I went in, I was expecting to kind of drift through the first half because I had already seen it but to my surprise I found it just as engaging as the first time. I thought that this just went to show that Wan paced the film amazingly so that there are really no dull moments. Just scary moments that are followed by another series of events that will lead up to another scary moment that will be sure to make you jump out of your seat. The only major complaint I would have for this film is that the trailer definitely gave away too much of the film. There are at least a few scenes where I was able to predict exactly what was going to happen based on the trailers that I had seen which was kind of a bummer.
Conclusion: On the surface, The Conjuring looks like just another haunted house thriller that we’ve already seen a dozen times before. It’s definitely not. Wan gave us a fresh perspective on this story that we haven’t seen, making the scares all the more terrifying. Great acting just elevated the movie as that’s definitely not a strength of the horror movie genre. Wan has certainly proved that he really knows how to get into the minds of the audience and what makes the “unknown” so scary, making me excited for his future projects. The Conjuring definitely delivered in a genre that easily disappoints and is a must-see if you are a fan of it.