Horror, a genre of movies that has continued to evolve over the years as the technology has improved. This type of movie has essentially one goal, to scare the crap out of audience members in as unique, often bloody, ways. While many of these movies sacrifice plot, and push the blood and scares into cheesy levels, there are still some treasures out there that have the chemistry right. My review today is on one of these treasures called The Conjuring, a horror film that has promised epic scares from trailer 1. Let’s get started.
Where to start with this review? I guess a good place is the scare factor of this movie. The Conjuring my friends has set it’s scare factor up to maximum, using all the elements to create a product that is diversely scary. Instead of making a movie that is a tribute to artificial blood and dismemberment, the Conjuring sacrifices the use of cheesy tricks to create a world that is twisted, dark and scary. What made it so scary? It starts with the setting, a typical farmhouse and surrounding land that looks and feels normal. No dark spooky woods, no abandoned buildings or houses that make great dare targets, and no shadow filled alley ways where you no trouble lurks. Beneath the normal surface though lies the threat, which for once isn’t introduced in some elaborate ritual or manner where a shallow character hits the magic switch and unleashes hell. Hell has already been unleashed in this place, it’s just lying in wait for its next victim.
How is it introduced? Well I won’t give away anything, but dark entity is gradually introduced in this film, making subtle moves to make its mark and get the crowd terrified by messing with their minds. Small creaks in the hallway, heavy knocks of wood in a silent house, and slight whispers of a voice that get under your skin. Thus, this critic appreciates two aspects of this movie that are used to scare you out of your wits end. The first is the use of what I call jump moments, scenes that involve something coming from nowhere, or a sudden sound that makes you jump. Although I’m good at predicting these moments, The Conjuring does a fantastic job spacing these moments out, integrating them within the story so the scare comes out from a natural source instead of some ridiculous creature or prop falling out of nowhere. The other thing that helps is that the silence to be broken happens in the background, the sound naturally drowning out instead of the typical lets pull a vacuum and then scare them. It makes the jump scenes less obvious, and keeps you pulled into the horror. The second factor is the one I appreciate more the creepy factor. Like some of my favorite movies, the Conjuring has those subtle techniques that breach your mental defenses and get ingrained into your brain. While we have heard things go bump in the dark before, this movie still finds a way to get to you. Whoever designed the screenplay did a great job forcing the audience to use their imagination to create their own spirit. Using the shadows of the house and the eerie use of lighting kept me guessing, wondering what lurked within the innocent looking house. Tie in the religious aspect of the movie and you have created a threat that really affects me more than I like to admit.
I guess this allows me to Segway into the next aspect of the movie. The Conjuring is a very religious movie, tying in many aspects like demonology, premonition, and spirituality that give it a more realistic edge. This isn’t some rogue beast that escaped from a parallel dimension/lab or some undead serial killer that can survive explosions. Instead the storywriters developed an antagonist, and a good horror story, that was believable, realistic, and that much scarier. For those who practice religion, these very qualities will be a key element in scaring, while those who choose not to might not be as affected by what plagues the house. Thus, use caution before seeing this movie, and take stock at what could really mess with your mind.
Putting religion aside, the Conjuring has one of the better stories I’ve seen in a horror movie. The family who plays victim has some good, albeit simple, character development that helps one get attached to the characters. While the mom (Lili Taylor) and dad (Ron Livingston) have more depth to their characters and therefore story, the little girls are strategically used to add that young child creep factor that affects a lot of people. However, the characters that I latched on to the most were the mediums of Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Judy (Sterling Jerins) Warren. Let’s face it most mediums, clerics, and priests have little story in the genre. Often they are supporting characters who read from a random verse in the bible, or are tragically killed by the vary spirits they are trying to eradicate. The Warrens fall into the small group who have a back story that sets the stage for the struggles to face. Throughout the movie you get to know the Warrens, and you see a change in them from simple detectives, to a loving member of the family they are helping and the attachment they feel towards them. I can’t go into too much detail, but as the situation changes, so too do their methods, which keeps things diverse, fun, and of course me entertained by the movie.
While the movie is indeed very well done, there were some aspects that I didn’t like. My main complaint is there are some plot holes that needed to be filled. One thing was the event that affected the Warrens. Apparently something got to the medium and altered the relationship between the husband and wife. They start to explain it, but never tell you what messed her up; I guess something to be explained in the already mentioned sequel or director cut. Another thing is of the five little girls, why were two of them the primary focus. They did attempt to balance the haunting amongst the girls, but I observed two in particular were the focus and I have no explanation why. There are also some other victims that make an appearance that don’t have a follow up, it is again another question left answered, and was a bit pointless introduction. Another thing that was a bit odd, though we actually do get an explanation, was the obsession with women as the victims. Why they chose that I don’t know, but we know that spirits are usually not as biased in their victims.
Let’s wrap this up, the trailers are correct in The Conjuring has brought the horror back to the genre. It’s realistic, it’s scary, it’s creepy and it has a story that ties everything together. While I don’t react quite like the audience, there were plenty of screams, jumps, and shocked cursing to assure this movie delivers on the scare. Don’t set your hopes too high though, or you might just come out disappointed and feel you wasted your time. One warning I can issue though is for the love of all that is good do not take infants, small children, or children for that matter to this movie. My scores for this movie are:
Movie Overall: 8.0