The Conjuring is horror done right. Not perfect, mind you, but there is something to be said for the care and craftsmanship that obviously went into James Wan’s haunting new feature. In a time where found footage and remakes make up 75% of the horror market, its refreshing to see such a strong take on the classic haunted house genre. Even though their isn’t much here you haven’t seen before, it’s presented in such a way that makes the experience feel exciting while paying homage to many classics in the genre.
The Conjuring follows two families, the Perrons and the Warrens. The Perrons are your typical American family during the 70’s. Carolyn and Roger Perron move into a new house with their five daughters, most of whom are familiar faces. Of course, as soon as the Perrons move into their new, too good to be true home, strange things start to occur. This is where the Warren family comes in. Lorraine and Ed Warren are famous ghost hunters who handle only the most serious cases. Carolyn approaches Lorraine and Ed and begs them to help her family.
I applaud James Wan for his constant eerie tone and atmosphere. Most directors end up throwing atmosphere out the window after the first 45 minutes or so, gradually adding more jump scares and subtracting tension. Wan, on the other hand, has such a great sense of the horror cliches that he is able to effectively balance the jump scares with the creepy mood. One thing that works particularly well is his ability to know when we expect a jump scare, and carefully using that knowledge to keep us in constant suspense.
Working with such a by the numbers horror story can be a challenge for any director. Fans are as aware of these tropes almost on the same level as the filmmakers, so adding a personal flare to the material is always a must. While the script itself may not do much to set The Conjuring apart, the acting really puts this movie onto a better level. Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson as Lorraine and Ed Warren are both particularly engaging. Part of this comes from seeing both in horror films before. In fact, Patrick Wilson was in Wan’s last haunting film, Insidous.
No one character becomes exceptionally developed, but juggling two families on different sides of the haunting was quite a task and having the ghost experts and the victims equally focused on makes for a much more relatable experience. Where as other films just throw in the paranormal experts, The Warrens are an integral part of the story from the get go.
So, is The Conjuring scary? You bet, in fact it’s one of the scariest movies I have seen in quite some time. It’s not the sort of fear that ends once the lights come on either. It’s the kind of classic dreadful feeling that old school horror films left you with. That sense that things are not quite right, even with the happy ending. This fear comes from the fantastic, realistic performances. The fear on their face is real, and it translates to us as real. It’s not that this film will make you believe in ghosts or demons, but it’s easy to believe that this happened to these people.
If there was one thing I had to complain about, it’s the ending. While I liked where it ended and how it ended, I think things got wrapped up a bit too neatly. I don’t know what I was expecting exactly, but in comparison to some of Wan’s other endings, it just didn’t have that same final feeling of terror. This however is not enough to ruin the rest of the film, as the ending is decent, just not amazing.
At the end of the night, I walked out of The Conjuring feeling shaken, but gleeful. It has been some time since a movie was able to make me shiver, but The Conjuring managed to sneak up and get almost everything right. Horror fans should love it!