“The Conjuring” had a lot of build up. The film was originally supposed to be released earlier in the year, then was moved back to a summer release, which is a very good sign. The trailer got me very excited for the film, but it does actually reveal a little too much.
“The Conjuring” is now known as the first film to ever be rated ‘R’ purely for being scary. It’s not rated ‘R’ because of language or gore or nudity, It’s just simply terrifying. I’ve heard and read a lot of good reviews and I’ve had friends who saw the movie before me and had fantastic things to say about. I heard that “The Conjuring” is one of the scariest films in a long while. Finally seeing the film after all the build up, I was slightly disappointed. I still very much enjoyed it, just not as much as I had hoped to.
“The Conjuring” is written by twins Chad and Carey Hayes. They have a very strange resume of films, and not in a good way. Some of their writing credits include the terrible “House of Wax” remake, a TV movie called “Invincible” executive produced by the odd pairing of Mel Gibson and Jet Li, and several “Bay Watch” episodes. They are all over the place and most of their work is not impressive in any way.
With the writing team not being the strong point of the film, that leaves a lot depending on the direction. “The Conjuring” is directed by James Wan. James Wan first gained notoriety with his film “Saw”. “Saw” is an odd case. The first “Saw” film is actually pretty good, but it did lead to a terrible string of sequels and an entire new genre known as torture porn. James Wan only directed the first “Saw” film, so his reputation isn’t really tarnished by the terrible sequels. He also made “Dead Silence”, “Death Sentence”, “Insidious”, and now, “The Conjuring”. I haven’t seen “Dead Silence” or “Insidious” yet. “Death Sentence”, I feel, is a fairly under-appreciated Kevin Bacon film.
The direction in “The Conjuring” is solid. He modeled the style of the movie after old horror movies, so the whole film has a classic, old fashioned feel to it, which I greatly appreciate. The movie is based on a “True” story and some of the actual people served as consultants to James Wan. They say he captured their story perfectly, and that the film should be seen as art instead of fiction.
Whether or not you believe any of this actually happened is up to you. The camera work in the conjuring is fantastic. The camera work often adds greatly to film. Many movie don’t bring the camera into the movie. They use it simply as a way to capture events. James Wan uses the camera as a way to reveal, and intensify scenes.
“The Conjuring” has the sensibility not to shove the horror right in your face. James Wan is a guy who understands horror. He knows that gore is not what actually scares people. Fear of the unknown does. Many movies build tension, but lose it once you see the “thing” of the movie. Take “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” for example. It built great tension and atmosphere, but after you see what you are supposed to see, it shoves it in your face nonstop for the rest of the movie in all it’s CGI glory. Things cease to be scary once they are explained and you are given a chance to look it over.
“The Conjuring” builds excellent tension, but the payoff, seemed a little lacking. I had heard that the movie was absolutely terrifying, and while The Conjuring” is certainly good, I might be pushed to even say great as a horror movie, I just didn’t find it scary. Maybe it’s just me, the other people in the theater were definitely scared, but I was a little underwhelmed. I saw people scream, people run out of the theater, people tell their children “Never to play that clapping game.”
As the movie goes on the tension rises higher and higher but the payoff left me disappointed. Exorcism films don’t do anything for me and since “The Conjuring” turns into a full blooded exorcism film at one point, the interest was lost. Whenever someone is getting dragged around on the floor by a ghost it wrecks the tension. Wan does his best to make it work, but I don’t think there is any way to make that particular effect scary.
Earlier in the day I watched the classic Wes Craven film “The Serpent and the Rainbow” for the first time. While thinking about “The Conjuring” and writing this review, my mind keeps drifting towards “The Serpent and the Rainbow”. Maybe seeing that classic right before “The Conjuring” cheapened my experience but it just goes to show that “The Conjuring” didn’t resonate with me as much as I would’ve like. It didn’t stick with me like many great horror movies do. I think that says something very strong about the movie.
“The Conjuring” is good as long as your expectations aren’t too high. It’s a well made horror film, which is rare nowadays. It has some terrific moments and has a classic horror movie feeling. It’s been compared a lot to the recent “Sinister”, and I can see why, but it reminded me more of the movie “The Woman in Black”. Particularly the scenes in the house near the end of “Woman in Black”.
“The Conjuring” is very good horror movie that might be remembered as a classic or condemned to obscurity, maybe just wait to see it on DVD, but definitely watch it at some point.