- A classic-style haunted house story
- Has a surprisingly slow-burn for a movie directed by the Saw guy
- Also has a surprising lack of blood and gore (read: cheap horror tricks)
- Genuinely creepy in an old-school, creepy horror kind of way
- No shakeycam!
- Very few jumpscares; most of the thrills are genuine
- “Based on Real Events” ugh
- While does well with tension and scares, never really ramps to up its full potential
- Despite being only two hours long, some parts feel like they’re dragging a bit
- A few implausible moments
- Ending “sting” is lame
The Conjuring was my first entry back into the horror genre after a long self-imposed hiatus. Generally, I felt good horror movies were so few and far between that they were no longer worth seeking out, so I just avoided the genre altogether. While I still believe this (between the teethless PG-13 tween horrors, the overdone “gore porn” horrors, and the “found footage” horror films, I have had my fill of repetitive blandness), I was willing to dive back in and see what the genre had churned out in the past few years.
I was pleasantly surprised with what I found. The Conjuring feels very much like a more traditional horror film, akin to the older haunted house style movies. With an emphasis on creepy tension and a de-emphasis on jump scares, gore, or just general lameness, The Conjuring was a pleasant surprise even if it didn’t really do any one thing exceptionally well.
The film follows the Perron family, who moved into a farmhouse in Rhode Island. The two parents and their five daughters are quickly set upon by some sort of supernatural entity, and they call upon the paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren to help them out. The Warrens are famous real life “paranormal investigators,” and as such contribute to the usually eye-rolling “Based on Real Events” tag stuck on the film. As things progress, it is discovered the house was once owned by a witch, and said witch’s ghost begins to do some crazy stuff with Carolyn Perron and the children, leading to the Warrens having to discover how to exorcise or at least abolish the entity before it takes over.
What I enjoyed most about the film was the pacing. The Conjuring certainly had the usual horror-movie thing where you get scared at certain increments throughout the film (this pacing is so common any fan of horror can probably guess when the next scare will happen just by familiarity with the genre), but unlike most none of the scares felt forced or cheap. There were a lot of really great, genuinely creepy moments in the film, and the bulk of them felt completely earned. I particularly liked the tonal shift after the Warrens showed up with all their supernatural “ghostbusting” junk, only to find they were completely outclassed (as well as kind of regarded as kooks, which is totally fair) by what they were supposed to be getting rid of.
Recently I’ve been bored of a lot of “slow burn” horror, mostly because the Paranormal Activity movies have completely run the idea of “watch a scene and then something moves, that’s the scare!” into the ground. While there is a good deal of very small scare moments, The Conjuring did a solid job of having both actual buildup and good execution on their part. The reveals regarding the house’s past is fairly cliche, and the ending goes generally as you’d expect (with a few implausibilities involving falling several stories down and being fine), but all-in-all I felt the slower, methodical pace worked really well.
It’s hard to say much about this film without spoiling it, but I can go so far to say that while I had a good time with it, it doesn’t really do anything exceptional. The “monster” has a fairly traditional “American ghost movie post-discovering Japanese horror” look. There are a few jump-scares and, while they don’t feel cheap, I generally find them unrewarding. And while I really liked a more classic haunted house style movie, nothing The Conjuring did felt like it was branching out in any way. James Wan (who also directed Saw, interestingly enough) knew exactly what he wanted to make here and he did just that. There was essentially no risks taken, which is ok in one sense but a little unfortunate in another.
Regardless, I had a great time with The Conjuring. It isn’t super scary but is still sufficiently creepy, has pretty much no gore whatsoever, and follows traditional genre checkboxes very well. It’s a great horror film to start somebody out with if they don’t generally like the genre, and instills a great sense of dread for those horror-flick connoisseurs who are sick and tired of movies like Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension or The Gallows.