The Conjuring (2013)
The Warrens, husband and wife paranormal investigators, set out to help a family stricken by a demonic force in their isolated farmhouse.
The Conjuring as a movie is not original, but it contains creepy motifs and imagery which are uniquely memorable – and it’s these which land the film a spot alongside the likes of Robert Wise’s The Haunting (1963) in haunted-house mythology.
With a cinematography and soundtrack so woven around 70s horror, you could be forgiven for assuming you are settling down to The Amityville Horror. To be sure, both films may share the frankly dubious “true story” tag, but The Conjuring is a far superior film.
All good horror films start with a nerve-shredding prologue. The Conjuring is no different. The film is most similar I suppose to 1982’s “if Disney did horror” Poltergeist. But it’s a hell of a lot darker – not quite the sort of thing that Spielberg would attach himself to. However, James Wan does not settle with renting content on loan from the vault of bygone horror movies. Although, we see references come from as far away as The Birds.
Admittedly, it’s difficult to break new ground in the “creaking door” stakes but Wan manages to do it. This is a frightening movie, in a rather old fashioned way. By that, I mean it’s a jumpy, things that go bump in the night kind of picture. The minimalist soundtrack lets the house talk for itself. But when required the score does the job just perfectly.
The performances from the cast are exceptional which makes the film not only believable – in a way it really shouldn’t be – but also more enticing. This is extremely rare for a horror movie and is actually the main reason that most filmgoers – regardless of whether they are fanboys of horror – enjoyed The Exorcist (1973) despite its demonic theme. Vera Farmiga’s clairvoyant is so realistic that her emotional burdens seem to sit on your own shoulders in the front row.
The “big” scare scenes are so important in haunted house movies because these are the snapshots that we take home with us, the very thing that haunt our dreams afterward. The big scares here are elongated and elaborate set pieces which hold the whole thing together – they aren’t the cheap shocks peppered throughout lesser movies of this type.
The room – or perhaps ‘museum’ is more appropriate – in the Warrens’ house containing the haunted trinkets of past investigations is a magical insertion into a film already bleached with dark enchantment.
My only gripe with The Conjuring stems from the CGI apparitions. We don’t need to see the vengeful spirits at all – in fact when we have yet to spy them the movie is a hell of a lot scarier – and Wan should have learned this from his previous bash at a similar story in insidious.
The Conjuring contains no sexual scenes, no gore, no adult language or any other attributable which would render it a 15 certificate. That certificate seems to be given on scares alone.
There has been much hype about The Conjuring and for once it appears this was in good faith. A well-directed piece of horror cinema which I am sure over time will emerge as a minor classic. As will that image of the porcelain doll in her glass case…
Hotdog rating: 9/10