“She Made Me Do It!!” A Review Of “The Conjuring” (2013)
Continuing the reviews of some of the most talked about horror movies of 2013, let’s take a look at James Wan’s supernatural thriller, The Conjuring.
**WARNING: May Contain Minor Spoilers**
Admittedly, I put off watching this film for a while, mainly due to the fact that it didn’t appear to offer anything new to the sub-genre. It had predictable, mainstream horror fare written all over it! Insidious (2011) failed to impress and turned what could have been a decent paranormal flick into something that completely missed the mark. Especially during it’s third act, with its contrived plot-line and cartoonish looking ghouls, destroying any potential it may have had. After a number of viewings, Insidious does not hold up very well. In this case, undoubtedly there’s unfair judgement in place on my part. Stylistically The Conjuring shares similar aesthetics with Insidious from the music and loud jump scares to the use of flashback scenes. It basically delivers itself in the same conventional formula. It even stars Patrick Wilson who played Josh Lambert both Insidious movies. James Wan himself recently admitted that he was done with making horror movies for the time being due to feeling typecast as a particular genre filmmaker. He puts this down to Hollywood studios riding off the back something successful and encouraging it to be repeated over and over. Cinema is ultimately a money-making business that needs to create products that audiences will want to see; however Wan wants to turn his hand at something different and is currently set to direct Fast & Furious 7 (2015) a far cry from what is about to be discussed.
The Conjuring both steers away from convention at times but also remains with it. Arguably you will have seen this type of concept many times before. The film’s opening tells the tale of a supposed possessed porcelain doll, a trademark of Wan’s (See Saw (2004) and Dead Silence (2007), however its not the main focus, which surprises the audience to a degree. This sub-plot introduces paranormal investigators Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) and Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson) to the audience to provide a sense of the kind of cases they’re involved in. During the credit sequence we are informed of the film’s main story which is marketed as “Based on True Events”. Yes, the Warren’s were in fact real people, however the majority of haunting-themed films are allegedly inspired by real occurrences that may or may not have happened. See The Amytiville Horror (1979, 2005) or The Haunting in Connecticut (2009). Apparently the plot we’re about to witness is one of the most horrific cases that ever materialized, for me however a lot of suspension of disbelief is in place.
The real life Lorraine Warren and Andrea Perron worked closely with the film’s screenwriters and claim that the events unfolded on screen are an accurate depiction of what actually took place. We are sent back in time to 1971 where the Perron family are then introduced, consisting of mother Carolyn (Lili Taylor), father Roger (Ron Livingston) and their five young daughters. Oh and they have a dog! This typical American family are moving into a creepy looking old farmhouse, filled with plenty of frights around every corner! The 70’s setting is often featured in films of this vein, must have been a lot of creepy houses and a lot of spiritual activity back then if this is what the movies lead us to believe! To its credit though, the setting does give provide an unsettling tone especially emphasized by the design of the house itself.
Despite being predictable in many ways, The Conjuring does present several hide behind the cushion moments. The music rises, bangs on the walls are heard and you know its coming yet you still want to turn away! Wan has achieved his scares well this time round and limited the visual appearances of the demonic presence in comparison to the Darth-Maul inspired creation from his previous supernatural outing! It’s always far more effective when its what you can’t see that creates a sense of fear. Some impressive tracking shots are used to heighten the feeling of anxiety resulting in some shudder-worthy moments. Without giving too much away, the revelation of the demonic possession relating to witchcraft does bring in that extra layer of pure evil and let’s the audience know that anything is possible. It goes in depth with its mythology surrounding demonic activity that proves engaging.
The Conjuring is well-acted with strong, emotional performances from Wilson, Vera Farmiga and Lili Taylor in particular. The child actors within the film play their roles convincingly, Joey King as Christine and Sterling Jerins as the Warren’s daughter Judy do well at giving out the impression of dread in a compelling manner. The two narratives in place of the family’s possession and the Warren’s backstory weave together well before merging as one. The film builds up nicely and is perfectly paced incorporating some genuine moments of atmospheric tension that run throughout. It’s safe to say I was pleasantly surprised with The Conjuring. It was one that I didn’t expect to like however its the ideal film to watch with a group of friends if you want a good scare. Annabelle the doll who is arguably the face of the movie, used to cleverly market it is becoming a little icon in her own right through appearing in creepy doll lists by horror enthusiasts. Personally, older films such as The Innocents are far more chilling, but The Conjuring takes its expected formula and does a pretty good job with it.
Hayley Alice Roberts.