The Conjuring (2013) Content Warning: Erm… it was given an R-Rating in the US on the basis of being scary.
The Conjuring (2013)
Directed by James Wan
Starring Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Lili Taylor, Ron Livingston
Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren work to help a family terrorized by a dark presence in their farmhouse.
IMDb Rating: 7.5
Meet the Warrens
Paranormal super-sleuth couple, Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga), are interviewing some nursing students being stalked by creepy doll, Annabelle. Apparently, the students inadvertantly invited a demonic presence into their lives. It turns out Ed and Lorraine are giving a speech to some college kids about their paranormal investigations and the Annabelle story is part of a presentation. What they say will no-doubt be important as the film progresses; even if some things they say now contradict things they say later (like the stuff about “vessels”).
Meanwhile, Roger (Ron Livingstone) and Carolyn Perron (Lili Taylor), along with their seventy-two kids (OK, fine, five kids), move into their new farmhouse. They try to move the dog in as well, but unlike the dog in The Amityville Horror, she’s having none of that shit. Also, much like The Amityville Horror, the spooktastic house from The Conjuring features a hidden room which we find soon enough. It’s almost as if the real-life Ed and Lorraine Warren kept encountering situations that were relatively similar…
Things That Go Bump, Bash and Creak In the Night
If you’ve seen a haunted house film before, you likely know what’s coming. One of the children keeps feeling something tugging at her leg in the night. Another child starts talking to an imaginary friend. There’s things falling off the walls, banging doors, and all sorts of sinister goings on. As is usual, these occurrances continue until somebody calls in the Ghostbusters. Or Ed and Lorraine, because this film is set in 1971, not 1984 and Peter Venkman is still perfecting his technique of using electric shocks to try and score with college girls.
Ed can’t really be arsed trying to help because of some horrible event, but Lorraine’s up for it so he goes along anyway. Oh dear. This escalates quickly.
Bustin’ and Conjuring
I’m not really here to debate whether the people who very-likely played a part in making up The Amityville Horror are on the level with this one. The Conjuring takes place a few years before the Lutz’s alleged-nightmare inside 112 Ocean Avenue, Amityville, NY. That this film, which according to Lorraine Warren, is a very accurate portrayal of what supposedly-happened to the Perron family happens to share several narrative consistencies with The Amityville Horror, but a few more elaborate and terrifying details have been chucked in is neither here nor there. To the believer, no proof is necessary. To the skeptic, no proof is possible. And Ed and Lorraine aren’t big on providing proof anyway (where’s that White Lady video, eh?).
So I shall put the snarky japes aside. I won’t even comment on Saw director, James Wan’s, attempts to claim demonic interference in making this film – except just now, because I clearly did there. Seriously though, if demons have it in for your film, couldn’t they torch the set rather than disconnect your phone calls? They sound like a bunch of dicks rather than malevolent forces.
OK, I’m sorry.
If you’re still reading this, you’re probably halfway interested in what I thought about the film, right? Well, actually, it’s pretty damn good.
Moving Right Along (Ba-da-bum, Ba-da-bum)
I’ll be honest, save for the end, if you’ve seen The Amityville Horror (1979), you’ve seen most of this movie already.
Yet, I gotta hand it to James Wan. He does bring a certain style to this that really helps crank up the tension. I enjoyed The Amityville Horror but I can see why people find it rather flat. It’s not a movie that has any real flair to it. Everything is too deliberate, too structured. Each scene is framed by a cinematographer that’s looking for the perfect shot, but not the right shot. The Conjuring is different. We have some beautifully disorientating tracking shots. We get close-ups of the actors screaming in terror, giving us enough reason to question whether any of its in their mind. That we know that something’s amiss, yet sometimes doubt them anyway is a stroke of true directorial, and acting, genius.
Wan also knows to hold back on revealing things. We’re treated to some wonderful shots of Vera Farmiga delivering information with just a few quick glances. Yet Wan is in no hurry to tell us what she’s seen, allowing things to bubble in our mind. It’s a simple but effective trick employed throughout The Conjuring. For example, there’s a scene where Christine (Joey King) is screaming at her sister, Nancy (Hayley McFarland – and it’s Lie to Me, if anyone else gets distracted working out where they’ve seen her before). Christine is adamant that something is behind the door. We can’t see it, and neither can Nancy, which makes everything just that much more unsettling as Nancy approaches.
Conjuring Crappy Effects
There are a few issues. Whether it was due to budgetary contstraints, a rushed production or something that just seemed like a good idea at the time, some of the special effects are a miss. The “demon” getup, for example, is about as scary as a sock. And not a very scary sock. A white sports sock with “Next” embroidered on it. For much of the film, this isn’t horribly distracting as we only see glimpses. Towards the end though, it downright takes you out of the moment at the worst possible times.
I’m going to be honest as well, stop with the loud bangs! I understand that the nasty inside the house likes to make a ruckus but this is one of those things that really pisses me off after a while. I tire of filmmakers using loud, five-hundred decibel “booms” to try and induce a quick jump-scare – it pisses me off even more when it’s accompanied by a sharp, musical noise.
It’s a mostly effective, increasingly creepy film. The backstory makes sense in the confines of the film (although in real-life is debunked bullshit – just sayin’) and adds an extra element. It’s brilliantly acted, except for the people playing the students in the opening Annabelle segment. And for once, pretty much everyone is reasonably likeable. There’s a handful of things that don’t make any sense, which I’m sure could be put down to supernatural shenanigans, and for a near-two-hour film occasionally some things seem a little rushed. But honestly, I can’t find enough faults not to recommend this one to people who like haunted house horror, even if you’re inclined to take the “Based on a true story” stuff with a hefty pinch of salt.