and their five daughters Andrea, Nancy, April, Christine and Cindy move out to a dilapidated Rhode Island farmhouse with expansive land for a fresh start. Initially, everything is fine, and the Perrons settle into their new home and enjoy the surroundings. Soon after, when playing 'hide-and-clap', two of the girls discover a boarded up cellar, and strange things start happening in the house. The Perron family dog, Sadie, inexplicably drops dead. A smell of rotting meat drifts throughout the house. The Perron children find their legs being grabbed at night, but never see the perpetrator. Doors slam open and shut. Carolyn Perron wakes up to find a series of bruises covering her body. It soon becomes too much for the Perrons, and Carolyn seeks out the help of two expert paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorraine Warren to examine their house for signs of otherworldly presences. To their horror, the Warrens discover that the whole area is steeped in bad spirits from hundreds of years previous which have built up to an almost satanic haunting that will target the Perrons no matter their actions. The Warrens go onto conduct a complete investigation of the property, but they find themselves hindered by angry spirits and having to make a potentially life threatening decision...
The Conjuring is a love letter to the classic horrors of the 70s and 80s, and features a menagerie of concepts and ideas from them, all lovingly twisted in Wan's idea of horror- which in some places, is highly effective. The influences on The Conjuring are many and clearly seen- the most predominant being The Exorcist and Poltergeist, through Wan's usage of building atmosphere and some use of cinematography. While all of this may make for a great vintage horror, the scares don't exactly translate well. With the nature of horror films changing, as well as the general tired slump horror seems to be in these days, some of the better scares in this film go unloved and untold, perhaps for a good reason.
The Conjuring is based on a true story and written by Chad & Carey Hayes, directed by James Wan, and stars Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Lili Taylor, and Ron Livingstone as Lorraine Warren, Ed Warren Carolyn Perron and Roger Perron respectively.
First and foremost, ignore the trailer. Ignore it. Seriously.
|Lorraine Warren, played by Lili Taylor.|
James Wan is undeniably good at the horror genre. He’s proven his chops in the sensational Insidious and is certainly no stranger to the genre. Insidious is one of his best works, and is a personal favourite of mine, due to the subtle scares that built up to an incredible crescendo, and the cinematography and camera work. Sure, the third act was a little bit cheesy and certainly weaker than the rest of the film (that said, the porcelain doll family that appears in the 'otherworld' still frighten the bajeezus outta me) but it was still a strong, scare-filled flick, and ultimately Wan's best work to date. In many of his films he's shown a proficiency with the horror genre, and has continually brought something new with each film he's created. However, The Conjuring doesn't quite live up to expectations.
The scares seem rather blunt in comparison to Wan’s previous work. While they are still partially effective and come together as part of a fantastic script, they still seem to be lacking a certain something which ultimately lets the whole film down. There seems to be a pattern of weak scares followed by strong ones, and then weak ones again, which makes the rhythm of the film much more tiresome. That said, the game of 'hide-and-clap' boasts a particularly scary moment that plays with the audience's and character's perception. The majority of the film plays on a fear of the unknown and fear of what’s out there, and very rarely reveals the demonic and ghostly perpetrators, saving those reveals for creepy moments with Lorraine, playing on her ability to sense that which is not there…
The use of camera work in The Conjuring is nothing short of spectacular. With fluid, constantly moving shots, the sequences look fantastic, and frequently play havoc with your sense of direction. The best example is roughly three quarters through the film when Carolyn sends one of her daughters to fetch something, and the camera is tilted and turned upside down as the character runs through the hallway, and then repeated as they returned. Once more, the cinematography and camera-work in The Conjuring are reminiscent of Wan’s work on Insidious, and are ultimately one of the best things about it.
As for the story, it’s somewhat disjointed. Appearing rather like the Annabell doll, a cursed
relic from one of the Warrens investigations, which is shown for seemingly no reason at the start of the film. It serves as a brief introduction to the Warren's work, but given the attention and focus the trailer gave it, it ends up being somewhat redundant. Within the film, you have a variety of arcs: the story of the Perron family, trapped in the accursed manse; the story of Lorraine's troubled relationship with her daughter; the concept of motherhood and mother-daughter relationships; the relationship between Lorraine and Ed; and lastly, a cautionary tale as to why you should never collect cursed artefacts.While all of these are relevant to the overall story, the rate at which the perspectives change makes it hard to make an attachment to one particular arc. That said, the script was good, although not without its flaws; it attempted to use clichéd 70s lingo and failed rather dismally.
|Carolyn Perron, played by Lili Taylor.|
The performances from the cast are surprisingly good and well done, and no one lets it down, not even the child actors. As a group, they feel incredibly realistic and play off each other’s reactions wonderfully, creating a wholesome family group. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga’s performances as paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren were also in this manner, and portrayed Ed and Lorraine fairly accurately. Lili Taylor’s performance in the third act where she is possessed by one of the evil spirits is absolutely commendable, and she delivers an outstanding performance, and like the rest of the film takes notes from classic horror.
Overall, The Conjuring was somewhat of a let-down. The trailers hyped it up to be something so much more than it was, and the fumbling of story arcs further dragged it down. However, it was made up for by an exceptional cast, exceptional cinematography and some well-placed scares. Drawing influence from masterpieces such as Poltergeist and The Exorcist, The Conjuring suffered from having too much going on, and was ultimately unfulfilling and overhyped by the trailer.
If you do choose to see it, don't watch the trailer beforehand.
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