I haven’t seen a horror film this good since M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense. Horror films today are the laziest genre of film. They’re usually very inexpensive and uncreative by either having a group of teenagers get slaughtered or having very loud sound effects after a moment of silence while showing said characters react to the noise. The Conjuring is nothing like the typical and predictable horror films that are made today. This is one of those films that earns every single one of its scares and it’s very apparent that a lot of time and effort went into the making of The Conjuring. While there may be one or two typical jump scares, they can be overlooked because the remainder of this film is so strong.
The Conjuring is directed by James Wan (Saw, Insidious) which is important to note because Wan is the perfect man to direct a movie like this. It’s set in the 70s where a family just moved into a new house. They soon start to notice that something isn’t quite right with the house and when strange occurrences escalade, the family decides to call the famous paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga). Now I know this synopsis is starting to sound like any other haunted house film but here’s where it takes a turn. The film doesn’t focus on the family living in the house; the film is instead about Ed and Lorraine Warren. For those who don’t know, back in the 1970s, the Warren’s were very famous paranormal investigators and were contacted frequently. What’s nice about the Warrens is that they will search as long as possible for a reasonable explanation instead of always jumping to the conclusion that it’s a ghost, spirit, or demon. Lorraine is a psychic medium and Ed is a demonologist (one of the few to be recognized by the Vatican). When they arrive for this haunted house assignment, they realize that something terrible must have happened at that house. This is when the plot really starts to climb and the edge of your seat intensity begins. But that is all I’m going to say about the plot because The Conjuring is more fun when you know as little as possible and watch it unfold.
For a horror film to be good, you need three things: a good director (and on a side note, a good cinematographer), good actors, and a good story. As mentioned before, we get that director with James Wan. Wan is excellent at drawing the crowd into his films. If you’re brave enough, you will be watching the screen as close as possible to try and catch every little eerie detail of this film. Wan knows how to really scare people and make an audience feel uncomfortable. He doesn’t rely on jump scares, fake-outs, or gore. He may have some of those in his film, but at that point he has already established an enormous amount of tension which makes those scares have a bigger pay off. The cinematography in The Conjuring is outstanding. The lighting and mood captured by the camera immediately put us in a haunted house in the 1970s. There are a lot of great sweeping shots and everything is framed perfectly. This mood of this film really reminded me of The Changeling (not the Angelina Jolie film!) which is a very creepy and scary film that I highly recommend. What was great about this story was that it wasn’t all of the same garbage we’ve seen before. The story allowed the audience to connect to the characters and really care about them. In most horror films, I could care less when any of the characters die but in this film, I was invested and concerned. Finally, the acting: the family was very believable, especially the mother played by Lili Taylor. But the actors that stole the film were the two main characters, the Warrens. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga are fantastic and without them, this film could have been a disaster.
In the opening credits, there’s the line, “This is based on a true story.” That is always a red flag for me because that line is usually used as a gimmick to try and frighten people about how true a story may be, but when you look into it, most films that say that turn out to be very un-factual and blown out of proportion. For The Conjuring however, the writers extensively interviewed Lorraine Warren, who is still alive today, about the incident. Lorraine Warren was also a constant consultant on the set. According to Warren, there were some elements of the film that were added for cinematic effect but for the most part, the film is an accurate representation of her most disturbing case. These are the types of films that we should be supporting; not the horror films that rob you blind and “scare” you with cheap/loud sound effects. The Conjuring is legitimately terrifying and I haven’t been this creeped out by a film in years. Not only should you see this in a dark theater, but you should buy it when it comes out on DVD and watch it every Halloween. I promise you will be scared from start to finish.