The Conjuring

Over the past few years, cinemas have been flooded with bad horror films. Really just terrible. There is only so long loud noises and non-sensical plots (I’m looking at you Paranormal Activity) are going to keep audiences happy. Gone are the days of genuine fear, now it seems the scariest thing that will make you wet your pants is the bedroom door slamming, or creepy faces behind you in the mirror. My favourite ever horror film is The Shining, it doesn’t get much better than The Shining. The Exorcist, Poltergeist, The Omen, all exceptionally scary films. So it makes sense that The Conjuring (an homage to 70s and 80s horror cinema) should evoke all that is good about horror films. To put it into perspective, after watching The Exorcist for the first time when I was 16, I couldn’t sleep for three days. I was terrified. But I love horror films, I always have.

I have to admit, I was a little sceptical, finding out that James Wan (of Saw notoriety) had directed The Conjuring. I like the Saw films, well the first one and the second one, then it all just got a bit silly. I was expecting a blood bath and jump scares, not particularly what I would call genuinely frightening. How wrong was I.

The Conjuring is based on a true story (always take with a pinch of salt) about a family moving into an old farmhouse in Rhode Island. From the moment they move in, things begin to happen, the dog refuses to go into the house, creaky doors, floors and ceilings, and a weird basement full of junk. Spirits begin to take over the family, so they call in Ed and Lorraine Warren, paranormal investigators to help them rid the house of the demonic entity.

Lorraine Warren - played by Vera Farmiga. Lorraine Warren was a real life paranormal investigator, primarily known for her role in the Amityville haunting case.

Lorraine Warren – played by Vera Farmiga. Lorraine Warren was a real life paranormal investigator, primarily known for her role in the Amityville haunting case.

Firstly, I want to address a few criticisms. I have always hated the intros ‘based on a true story’. Since Blair Witch, it makes it difficult to believe what your seeing, evoking one of the biggest ‘fake’ films of all time sometimes takes away from the story. The Conjuring also runs for quite some time, longer than I expected, nearly 2 hours and I definitely think some of the film could have been omitted, there is an unnecessary tangent involving Ed and Lorraine’s daughter which to me, personally, seemed completely irrelevant to the film as a whole.

Wow. That is not many criticisms for a recent horror film.

The Conjuring is one of the best horror films I have seen in recent years. There is no frills, no complex plot, no unbelievable myths and legends, simply straightforward possession and haunting with a basic storyline which comfortably fills out the whole film without the need to tart it up with stupidity (again Paranormal Activity, I’m looking at you, this time my arms are crossed and I’m shaking my head). The title sequence, as short as it is, is a very retro yellow title card, reminiscent of the Italian giallo films of the 70s and 80s, and sticking true to it’s predecessors, The Conjuring is made beautifully to reflect those films. You could quite easily stick a label on the DVD case that says it was made in 1978 and no-one would know any different.

The cast are brilliant, particularly the child actresses who do a superb job, no hammy child acting here. And against the grain of modern horror, these people are not stupid. You wont find any stupid blonde bimbos, who mid-bonk exclaim to a less-than-bothered boy ‘did you hear that? what was that noise?’ They are scared, and act in the way scared people act, they hide, they don’t investigate every little thing. No unexplained bout of bravery here.

Lili Taylor as Carolyn Perron

Lili Taylor as Carolyn Perron

Now to get onto the good bits, the scary bits! The Conjuring is actually quite creepy, I wouldn’t say it’s frightening keep-me-up-all-night frightening, it’s definitely very creepy. The scares are consistent right the way through the film, and it maintains throughout. There is no cheap shots, every scare has a place and makes sense, you get the feeling the James Wan knows how to scare people without shoving the faces of black haired girls into the audience with a loud shrill violin orchestra going wild. Whilst there are still moments in the film of ‘face in mirror’, ‘loud noises’, ‘slamming door’ and ‘creepy lady face’, they are not nearly as tacky as other films and they certainly aren’t relied on to make this film scary.

The Conjuring is astonishingly good, and it owes a great debt to the golden age of Hollywood horror cinema, which in an odd way, is fairly refreshing. I imagine in the future of cinema it will be extremely difficult to top the hysteria of something like The Exorcist, and arguably horror cinema has had it’s success, it’s peaked and I doubt anything will revolutionise this area of cinema, but once in a while absolute gems come along and spank other horror films, quietly sitting in the corner saying ‘this is how you do it, you don’t have to shout and crash about’ (again Paranormal Activity, just awful. Simply awful film) The Conjuring is worth seeing if you like horror films, some of the references to the golden age of horror might be lost on some audiences, but you do not need to have seen old horror films to appreciate The Conjuring. It’s a well made, coherent and genuinely creepy film which has more substance to it, lovingly made by someone who obviously has an appreciation for decent horror films.

5 thoughts on “The Conjuring

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  4. Cheers for reading my review, I’m just a ranter, I’m no expert – it therefore pleases me greatly to see my uneducated views be mirrored by someone who clearly knows what they’re talking about

    • No worries! Your review is spot on! I think The Conjuring will make it into top horror movie lists! I’ve seen too many bad horror films recently, so it was so refreshing feeling like I got my money’s worth!! I’m a huge ‘golden age’ horror fan, I grew up watching those films. I’d say that was my influence to study cinema and be a film geek!! And hopefully something like the Conjuring will make people want to watch old horror films, newbies and revistors!! 🙂

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