Director: James Wan
Writers: Chad Hayes, and Carey W. Hayes
More Info: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1457767/?ref_=nv_sr_srsg_3
IMDB’s Movie Summary: Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren work to help a family terrorized by a dark presence in their farmhouse.
My Thoughts: The Conjuring is a 2013 horror film that’s part haunted house movie, part possession story, and part exorcism thriller. It’s loosely based on the files kept by the very real self-appointed demonologists, Ed and Lorraine Warren, although considering that the Warrens are proven frauds (shocking, right?) and the liberties taken with the already made up files, I think it might be more fair to say that the movie’s protagonists are loosely based on real people. So now that we have that all out of the way, let’s dive into my thoughts on The Conjuring.
What I think worked: So immediately, the first thing I noticed about this movie is that the acting is very good. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga are instantly likable and entertaining as the Warrens, and Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor do a fantastic job grounding the film and providing a lot of heart as the parents of this family being terrorized. All four of them do a really good job portraying fear through facial expressions and body language, which did a lot to make the scares more effective. If I’m able to buy that the people in the film are terrified of this thing I can barely see, it really does a lot to bring me into the movie and make me feel what they’re feeling. But at the end of the day, adult actors doing a great job isn’t all that surprising. I mean it’s nice and makes the movie work, but films like The Conjuring, that rely on child actors to provide a lot of the heart and be the focus of the film for large portions of it can be….iffy, to say the least. So I’m happy to tell you that all of the child actors in this movie do an absolutely fantastic job. They all also do a great job acting out fear with just body language and facial expressions—particularly this one scene where a girl has to freak the fuck out at what appears to the audience to just be an empty corner—holy shit she did an amazing job. So yeah, overall, the acting was very, very good.
I also really liked the way Wan used setup and payoff to enhance the effectiveness of his scares. These little things are established throughout the movie that come back and matter later on, and several of the freakiest things that happen in the movie are the result of this kind of thing. I really don’t want to get into spoiler-y territory, because I feel like that’d kind of lessen the impact of the scares, but trust me when I say that there was some great setup during the first two thirds, and they payed off really well throughout. Speaking of setup, that’s something that The Conjuring is really good at in general. Not all that scary happens during the first third of the movie, but because it takes its time in establishing its characters and setting, when shit does start to go down, I feel like the scares hit me a lot harder. For example, by the time the demon haunting the house really started to openly attack the family living there, I was familiar enough with the layout of the house that I could almost predict the corners and little nooks where something could be hiding, and it just heightened the whole experience.
And while we’re talking about scares, the scares in this film were fucking top notch! Like, a lot of horror films rely on jump scares to startle you and make you go “gahh!”, and this movie has some of that for sure, but it also knows how to expertly build tension, and create genuinely frightening scenarios and locations. Like holy shit, that one scene where the girl’s clearing seeing something awful in the corner of her room, but we don’t see it and we just never get to see it is one of the most terrifying scenes I’ve probably ever seen in a movie. And maybe that’s just cause I don’t watch too many horror films, but STILL! I have never been so frightened of air and wall in my life. Not to mention, the climax of the movie is totally fucking insane! Once Bathsheba (the name of the demon) is revealed and is actively possessing other people, it gets even creepier, and the exorcism at the end is executed masterfully. Not to mention, the subplot with the Annabelle doll and the Warrens’ daughter is also really damn scary! I mean, I don’t like it for reasons I’ll get into in a minute, but it is scary.
Lastly, before I move into a few critiques, I really like this movie’s actual plot. Now don’t get me wrong, this is not really a unique premise. The haunted house movie template has been used for years, and this one doesn’t really deviate all that much from the standard template. However, I think that its execution absolutely makes up for it. Original does not equal good, and good does not have to mean original, and this film is the perfect example of that. It also has some neat world-building that goes a long way to explain why the hell a demon would go out of its way to be all spooky the way Bathsheba does in The Conjuring, and it adds some neat extra depth to the world without taking up too much time.
What I think didn’t work: Unfortunately, where this movie starts to falter is with the whole shared universe premise. The Conjuring works really well as a stand alone horror film, but then about half way through the movie, Wan starts up this subplot that clearly only exists to set up future spinoff movies. The Annabelle doll gets out of its case and starts tormenting their daughter, and even though it’s all super spooky and atmospheric, it totally kills the pacing of the movie! Like, there’s all this crazy intense shit going down in the main house, and then we cut back to the Warrens’ house and we start doing buildup stuff again. Like come the fuck on, I was just getting into it! Don’t pause the action now! And it also feels like the script uses this subplot as an excuse to get the Warrens out of the house again, and the whole thing just reeks of plot convenience and Warner Brothers’ desperation to be the next Marvel. Like holy shit WB, y’all released two shared universe startup movies in a single year. At least this one doesn’t suck ass like Man of Steel does though….Honestly, this would probably be forgivable if the spin-off movies were good, but looking over these IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes pages, I’m highly skeptical, to put it mildly. It seems like, aside from the main Conjuring Trilogy movies, these movies are very hit or miss, and they miss a fair amount more than they hit. With that being said, I haven’t seen any of the other ones — yet — so I cannot really comment on that, aside from saying that the spin-off setup time doesn’t really work with the overall story.
Also, I gotta say that the way this film romanticizes the Warrens kinda pisses me off. Like I get what its going for, being able to put “Based on a True Story” at the beginning of your exorcism horror film definitely adds to the spook factor, but I feel like that’s all that really needed to be done. This film’s credits roll over all these quotes and shit from the real family who claim to have been haunted and the real Warrens, and I was already skeptical the first time I saw that, and thought it was kinda gimmicky, but after doing fifteen minutes of research into who these people actually were, I’d just like to say fuck you to the movie for doing that. The Warrens were con-artists who manufactured a national ghost scare back in the 1970s for money, and they continue making money from it today with their fucking haunted artifact museum, and for the movie to pretend that the real people were some kind of heroes really pissed me off, and honestly detracted from my enjoyment of the film more than I might expect from an issue like that.
Final Thoughts: The Conjuring is a simple, yet very effective haunted house horror film that I enjoyed quite a bit. The scares worked really well, the characters were vibrant, entertaining, and did a great job endearing themselves to me, the child actors were shockingly spectacular, and it had some nice world-building and dialogue to top it all off. Unfortunately, it’s bogged down by the studio’s desire to make the whole shared universe thing happen, and has some pretty awkward pacing as a result. That and its odd desire to romanticize real life scumbag liars really annoyed me, and I think that knowing the truth about the Warrens will make any future rewatches of this film difficult for me.
But despite that, I really enjoyed watching The Conjuring, and I’m going to give it an 8/10. It’s currently on both Netflix and HBOMax, and I would highly recommend checking it out on either of those platforms if you’re looking for a good movie with some spooky vibes that’ll probably put a smile on your face, and make you fear for your life at the same time.
Written on 08/22/2021