In an attempt to make a fresh horror film, director James Wan decided to make a completely retro film. And yet, it is because The Conjuring is so retro that that it feels like new and fascinating movie with a haunting atmosphere and likeable characters.
The story has two focuses. The first is on the Warren family, specifically Ed and Lorraine played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga respectively. They are a team of paranormal investigators and demonic exercisers. They just finished off a case and are explaining its ramifications to a local college. Meanwhile, the Perron family has moved into their new home in Connecticut. Shortly after they move in, there is a lot of subtle yet eerie things start plaguing the family. It starts with an incessant whining of the family dog and all of the clocks stopping at the same time and gradually escalates to the matron Carolyn, played by Lili Taylor, getting bruises all over her body and the rotten smell of dead flesh a constant irritant. The Perrons enlist the help of the Warrens and they begin to unearth a far more sinister plot and presence than even the experienced Warrens have dealt with before.
The Conjuring borrows themes and pacing from several successful horror movie franchises, and yet it is still able to maintain its originality. With the film being set in the early 70s, the director could have easily made this movie out to be as many retro movies are as the current zeitgeist’s interpretation of the foregone era. However, with the Conjuring, it doesn’t look like a 2000s horror movie about the 70s; it looks like a 1970s horror movie with a belated release date. The characters, the setting and even the cinematography will leave horror fans with a strong sense of nostalgia.
One of the biggest factors that is important to any horror movie is to make sure the audience has an emotional investment in the people being afflicted by the supernatural force. After all, if they are just a bunch of drunken kids playing pranks, being jerks and not showing any redeemable qualities, there won’t be any desire for them to emerge victorious from their ordeal; in fact, often the opposite is true in this case. This is done very well for both the Warrens and the Perrons. There are enough scenes that we get to see them interacting and show that they are innocent, sweet and loving people, while at the same time there isn’t any scene that drags on to the point of utter boredom.
There are no significant grievances to be made with this film. The parts that are scary make it a point to build an atmosphere and let the natural ambience of each individual setting and situation provide the skin crawls instead of getting a cheap pop with a dramatic orchestra sting and a horrifying creature flashing on the screen. The jump scares here are earned and built up with occasional twists to leave the audience at the edge of their seat.
The Conjuring will prove to be a divisive movie among fans of horror movie; particularly between those who prefer older versus newer films in the genre. Anyone who likes the “torture porn” films or creature features such as Saw and Evil Deadrespectively won’t appreciate the slow subtlety, character development and more traditional ending. Those who prefer films such as The Exorcist and the original Amityville Horror will not only draw natural similarities between the films, but will appreciate the nostalgic aspects of the film. Any who consider themselves in the latter category should see this film if they haven’t already. And those who don’t, although they might not get as much out of it, wouldn’t hurt to see it.
The Conjuring has excellent pacing, great yet minimal character development and a classic cinematography that will please anyone with an affinity toward a subtle integration of light CGI and impressive practical effects. The score is chilling, although it will not leave any lasting impression. As long as you don’t mind the title having nothing to do with the film itself, this proves to be one of the most haunting and impressive horror movies of the year.
The Conjuring opens nationwide July 19th, watch the trailer.