The Conjuring Directed by: James Wan Cast: Lili Taylor, Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Ron Livingston Running Time: 1 hr 42 mins Rating: R Release Date: July 19, 2013
PLOT: A family moves into a new house, but there is an evil presence. Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) try to help, but find themselves in the most terrifying case of their lives.
WHO'S IT FOR? Do you need blood, guts, and dismemberment in your horror films? If so, look elsewhere. This is just a nicely paced film with quality scares.
It is absolutely fantastic when a film can give you a genuine moment. When you see more than 150 films a year, sometimes that's hard. Typically, the majority of movies are lost in the shuffle, and you barely give them any thought unless someone asks your opinion. That is not the case with The Conjuring. It created a genuine moment. There was a scene when a side character sees something in another room. Does he tell everyone else to join him? Nope, he wanders in after the whispering thing. Then bam, the scare comes from the opposite direction. It sounds like something a million movies have done before it, only this time I let out a noise. Let's call my noise a loud, shaky gasp moan. Unless it's a comedy, I normally don't make a peep in the theater. Not only did the scare on the screen catch me off guard, but the realization that I uttered a noise surprised me as well. The Conjuring was working.
My love/hate relationship with horror films is becoming clearer. Give me The Innkeepers, The Others, The Orphanage, Paranormal Activity and now The Conjuring any day over films like Sinister. Yes, Sinister is disturbing, and I'm properly nervous when I watch, but creating a disturbing image is pretty easy. There are a million ugly ways to kill someone (probably). Creating a horrific image that is fun, that doesn't involve death is a more difficult beast. That's what The Conjuring does well. It's rated R, but not because of blood, death and decapitations. It's rated R because it's scary. If you're moaning about another haunted house movie, don't worry, it's quickly explained. A truck driver and wife, with five daughters can't just move in with another family. They are stuck in their new house, and so are we.
There are occasional moments when the film lacks focus. What seems to initially be a film about Carolyn becomes an ensemble that definitely includes the Warrens. Thankfully, there's something honest in the relationship with the Warrens. I don't believe in possessions, but they do, and it feels passionate and serious to them. Only a few times does it become too earnest. The film respects the subject, which allows you to get past a couple of moments that feel forced. Any time special effects are used, it's obvious. The main scene I'm thinking of includes CGI hair pulling. Plus, some of the noises that come from a possessed character toward the end of the film made me chuckle instead of cringe. The basic horror moments which include a basement, a bad smell, sleepwalking, and children's toys are all familiar, but done in a way that makes you happy. Happy that you're scared, I mean. The game "Hide and Clap" is new to me, and now, forever tainted.
It's weird to say, but there is something nice, warm and inviting with The Conjuring. The ending speaks to this, not desperately pointing to a sequel or a final scare. I would happily watch it again, which is something I rarely say about horror films. I want more and my hunch is the film will be successful enough to give us just that. There are plenty of directions the Warrens could go. They have a room that brought to mind the shop in "Friday the 13th" the TV series. There's even the possibility of a sequel being the re-imagining of a film that has already been remade. It's not technically a reboot. Let's call it a ReSpin. I'm on board.
FINAL SCORE: 8/10