Director: James Wan
Writers: Chad Hayes, Carey Hayes
Stars: Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Lili Taylor, Ron Livingston, Shanley Caswell, Hayley McFarland, Joey King, Mackenzie Foy, Kyla Deaver
What are the main elements that make a truly horrifying movie experience? In my opinion, they would be an effective isolated location, interesting use of sound, believable interpersonal relationships, and of course, a scary “thing” of some sort.
James Wan incorporates all of these elements perfectly.
The Conjuring – Review
The movie examines a particular case of Ed and Lorraine Warren (Wilson and Farmiga), who are experienced investigators in hauntings, possessions, and other supernatural occurrences.
The focus is on the Perron family, a brood of seven who recently move into an old Rhode Island farmhouse in 1971. The house is in the middle of nowhere and the family begins experiencing strange events. After Carolyn (Taylor) begins bruising mysteriously and other disturbing events happen concerning their five daughters (Caswell, McFarland, King, Foy and Deaver), Ed and Lorraine Warren enter the film to assist the family in figuring out the root cause for what plagues them each night.
Wan is not new to the horror genre. It has been wonderful to see his progression from Saw, where he heavily relied on over-the-top situations and gore to entertain, to Insidious, and finally to The Conjuring. Wan has definitely become an authority on horror-film making.
While the movie did rely on the typical Haunted House clichés that you expect; characters making stupid decisions, creaking doors, etc., Wan used some incredibly successful retro camera techniques that suggested you were watching a classic horror movie, instead of a modern one and kept the tension high throughout the movie.
Wan knows how to make a truly creepy backdrop to the movie. When you first see the old farmhouse, you can tell it is a bad idea for anyone to linger there for any amount of time and instantly feel uneasy.
In addition to the obvious things meant to scare you, the movie makes effective use of sound. Apart from things bumping in the night, there are classic orchestral swells at dramatic moments, and other elements that created great jump scare moments. This was really well done because I still jumped at things even when my eyes were closed!
I’ll just pause to address the fact that ghost/possession movies creep me out more than the average slasher-film. The Conjuring is especially creepy because the events this family experienced (along with the other occurrences mentioned throughout the movie) were based on actual events. There are websites dedicated to the Warren’s cases over the years and these stories are real and frightening. Wan obviously took some liberties with the story, but the fact of the matter is that the Warrens and the Perron family LIVED this movie. Part of a successful scary movie is the thought that whatever happens in the movie could happen to you.
Another thing that really sets this movie apart for me is that it does some really great things that many horror movies fail to do; this movie creates a believable family dynamic by inserting some genuine humor. Most horror movies focus on one scare after another, but The Conjuring takes the time to insert some back-story on the family and has a few chuckle-worthy moments that made the family feel more authentic and the situation they find themselves in all the more threatening.
The writers also didn’t ruin it with an atrocious ending a la The Last Exorcism.
I would highly recommend this movie to any horror-lovers out there. You will not be disappointed and if you’re anything like me, you won’t be able to wait to see what Wan conjures up next.
However, I will leave you with a question. There was one plot-line that I believe wasn’t fully addressed (at least to my satisfaction) involving a doll and the Warren’s daughter. After you see it, post your comments and give me your input!