Archive for July, 2013

The 1970s were the golden age of possession films and the religious horror subgenre. The Conjuring seems to be a conscious throwback to that aesthetic, and if not for a noticeable lack of film grain, one could almost believe this was a recently uncovered film from that time that mysteriously stars a modern cast.

The Conjuring concerns the husband and wife team of Ed and Lorraine Warren (a real-life couple of paranormal investigators of debatable authenticity; most famous for their own investigation into the supposed real-life events seen in The Amityville Horror) and their investigation of a seemingly haunted property owned by the Perron family. The family experiences a variety of phenomena that cause them to seek out the Warrens. The film purports to be based on true events, but as a horror fan I know from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre to take this claim with a grain of salt.

As it stands, The Conjuring is pretty much by-the-numbers, as well-worn and comfortable as the bench seat in the Warrens’ AMC Ambassador. If there were a checklist for the tropes and cliches of this kind of movie, The Conjuring would tick most of them off. But my biggest issue with the film is that it lacks fangs. The demon possessing the Perron’s house doesn’t really do much of anything until the last ten minutes of the film. It manifests in some predictable ways- leaving marks, poltergeist phenomena, ghosts that only one person in the room can see, creepy prophetic toys. Other than that, there isn’t much to it. It’s quite a bit more tame than many films of this genre, but that doesn’t really work in its favor. There’s never a massive shock, no great and encompassing horror, and the jump scares (and false scares) too frequent to build a truly oppressive or chilling atmosphere.

The best part of the film is that the cast is quite well chosen. Patrick Wilson has a distinct and notable talent for delivering outlandish material in the most serious deadpan you can imagine, and this serves the film well. Vera Farmiga is also excellent as his seemingly on the edge of madness wife, and the Perron family all do passably well. Unfortunately, the film just isn’t that exciting or interesting.

While The Conjuring is a decent example of its genre, it does little to stand out. While the movie theaters aren’t exactly chock full of films worth seeing right now, I’d recommend renting one of the classics of the genre- something like The Exorcist or Poltergeist- if you’re looking for a good horror film. The Conjuring makes a good attempt, but a rather limp product.

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