Conjuring, The (2013)

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The Conjuring (2013)Starring Lili Taylor, Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Ron Livingston

Directed by James Wan

Something you may or may not know about me is that I’m an extreme paranormal buff, and I have extensively studied a lot of the cases that real life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren handled. So I approached this film, which is a dramatic telling of the horrors experienced by Roger and Carolyn Perron along with their daughters, from a bit of a different standpoint than most. Being familiar with both the case and the history of the Warrens gave me a couple of preconceived notions upon going in regarding what I would see and how everyone would be portrayed.

Let’s start with Ed and Lorraine themselves, portrayed in The Conjuring by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, respectively. To my delight everyone has seemingly done their homework. Under James Wan’s direction Wilson and Farmiga captured not only the professional and spiritual sides of the duo but also their warmth and sensitivity as a family themselves. Make no mistake; even though the lion’s share of the film focuses on the Perron haunting, this film belongs to the Warrens as their story is the anchor which keeps this spooky ship firmly docked in port. Kudos to the actors.

To my surprise and without giving away too much, the film starts with its focus on one of the Warrens’ other most famous and frightening cases, the haunting of Annabelle the Doll, and she – or it for that matter – ends up being a key piece of the puzzle of the film itself. As for the Perron haunting, Roger (Livingston) and Carolyn (Taylor) move with their daughters to a vintage farmhouse out in the country to start their lives away from the dangers of the bigger cities. Little do they know that there are far greater dangers and absolute evil waiting for them in the dark and always moving shadows of the home. Things quickly spiral out of control for the Perrons and they begin to actively seek help as a means to both keep their family safe and cope with the problems that are slowly taking their toll on all parties concerned. Luckily for them, the Warrens are giving one of their famed lectures on the paranormal nearby, and Carolyn decides to show up, plead her case, and ask for their help. That is the spoiler-free version of the story, and it’s all I’m presenting here because the less you know and have seen regarding The Conjuring, the more effective the film will be.

That being said… it is EXTREMELY effective. The Conjuring is home to some of the single most frightening haunted house scares ever committed to film. My biggest fear going in was that some of these moments would come off as goofy or too over-the-top, but Wan manages to clearly ride the line between reality and the absurd as if he were a stone grinding against the blade of a razor. While the film is home to some big-time scare moments, nothing ever comes off as too campy or ridiculous. Wan shows a lot of restraint, and as a result the flick delivers in spades. Speaking of delivering… Lili Taylor. This woman is a veritable powerhouse of an actor, and the fearless performance she turns in during the climax of the film will leave you shuddering in your seat, white-knuckled and gasping. To say that she really “goes for it” is a complete understatement.

The Conjuring is also very much a period piece and feels genuine in terms of setting. From the hairstyles to the clothes, everything has a real air of authenticity. In fact, the illusion is nearly perfect with the exception of a scene involving the usage of a current song whose lyrics almost feel a bit too on the nose for the goings-on in the movie. Don’t get me wrong; it sounds like a Seventies song, but in the end it kind of left me scratching my head. Still, if that’s the main problem present here, then hey… who cares? Most probably won’t even notice. There are a couple of minor missteps along the way, but overall the pacing is pretty much pitch perfect and the effects work never distracts you from the fact that both the Warrens and the Perrons are The Conjuring‘s true beating heart and it’s their story that works to drive this movie home.

In the end I truly believe that Ed, who passed away many years ago, would be very proud of this film, and that’s the highest compliment I could ever pay it. The Conjuring is a masterclass in absolute terror that’s destined to become a classic within the genre. There’s no question that for most it will easily be scariest film of the summer… or even the year. The flick showcases the kind of pure, relentless horror that will leave audiences thoroughly creeped out and screaming.

4 out of 5

Discuss The Conjuring in the comments section below!

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Steve Barton

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  • aliensharkboy

    I had a lot of little problems with this, but also a lot of love for some of the scares and style. In the end, I’d say I enjoyed it, but along the lines of 3 and a half knives.

  • LSD Zombie

    Wow, The Conjuring really did live up to the hype! I’d say it even exceeded my expectations. What I loved most was that the CGI was kept to a bare minimum. I’m looking forward to the next one!

  • LifeMi

    I fucking HATED Insidious, so going into The Conjuring I expected nothing. What I got was decent; not bad, not good, just okay. I loved Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, Wan directed the film well and there were a few genuine scares, the exorcism scene in particular. But most of the scares fell flat and I didn’t give a shit about the family, so I was bored for a lot of the movie and just rolled my eyes every time an old hag showed up. That being said, it’s an improvement on Insidious and I will watch Insidious Chapter 2 in the hopes Wan will actually turn this formula into a good movie. But thus far, all he has to show for it is one shitty, hugely overrated piece of crap and one decent movie that should’ve been great.

    • nazo

      This does look a lot like Insidious, which I didn’t like either. I’ll probably wait for DVD and go see Pacific Rim a second time.

      • LifeMi

        Nazo, if you hated Insidious like I did, then don’t bother. It’s an improvement, but it’s not worth rushing out to see it; heck, I saw it less than 24 hours ago and I’m already forgetting it. But like I said earlier, I will take a look at Insidious 2 in the hopes Wan will finally make good on this formula. And yes, I am going to see Pacific Rim in theaters again.

        • nazo

          I didn’t hate it, and I was kind of entertained by the Rent A Kreuger which I think a lot of people hated, but all of the “spooky tension building” scenes fell really flat for me. I’ll save my twelve bucks.

          • LifeMi

            One of the smiling women at the end got me, but that was it.

    • frank_dracman

      The Conjuring was fair. That’s about the best I can describe it. I don’t really care for spooky house movies and this didn’t change my mind. If your idea of horror is LOUD NOSIES and a creepy doll, by all means go see it. There’s nothing new here and you won’t be jumping out of your seat like the promotional material would have you believe, but you could do worse.

      Don’t get me wrong, the movie itself is good. The acting is fair, the story isn’t convoluted or boring. The effects are really good and it was entertaining. Really wasn’t my bag, but I’m glad it’s doing good. Just wish I went will my gut and saw Pacific Rim again instead.

      • LSD Zombie

        What about the scene where the witch jumps off of the armoire?! If this didn’t convert you into a fan of paranormal horror flicks, nothing will. The Conjuring is the best example of how to properly build suspense and tension in YEARS. Every other filmmaker who wants to tackle a film in this sub-genre should be taking notes.

        • frank_dracman

          Funny enough, that made me immediately think of the scene in the calligraphy class from The Eye. “Get out of my seat!” or something of that nature. Like I said nothing groundbreaking, but still an entertaining movie. Coming from a guy who hates the Paranormal Activity movies, I’d say it’s a good compliment.

          • LSD Zombie

            I don’t hate the PA movies, but I certainly wasn’t nearly as affected by them as most people were. I still think the third film was the most successful as far as scares go.

        • LifeMi

          LSD, when I saw that bitch jump off the armoire, I cursed Wan and his obsession with old hags as villains in his movies. STOP IT. STOP IT. STOP IT!!!!!!

          • LSD Zombie

            Old hags just happen to be terrifying to most people, including myself. I can’t quite put my finger on why that is though. I’m just glad she wasn’t another half-assed CGI creation.

  • kiddcapone

    So, here’s the part where I come in and shit all over The Conjuring, right?

    Wrong. I loved it. Finally, a haunted house movie that doesn’t disappoint. These are the types of films that should be released around Halloween time, not that Paraboring Nonactivity bullshit.

    One of my only issues is with Wan. It’s becoming less technique and more repetition with his style right now. It borrows a lot in terms of the same tricks used in Dead Silence and Insidious. Don’t get me wrong, I really liked both of those films as well as this one, it’s just I wonder how many times the guy can keep regurgitating the same exact formula and gimmicks while keeping it fresh.

    I went out of my way to avoid watching trailers and commercials for The Conjuring, but I couldn’t miss all of them. And this really hurts, because those fucking ads show several pivotal moments that didn’t carry the same weight when I knew it was coming next in the flick. It’s not the films fault, but it ruined what possibly could have been a perfect score due to this issue.

    The Conjuring – 4.5/5

    • frank_dracman

      Holy shit. YOU liked it? Well that settles it, I’m off to the movies this week. I hardly saw any trailer for this, not because I avoided them, but because I had absolutely zero interest in seeing another lame spooky house movie. All I know is Niteowl is in it and a chick gets thrown across a room.

      I liked Insidious, but it was hardly scary. This any better?

      • kiddcapone

        I’m way too jaded for being “scared” while watching a movie, but it did have several moments where I felt on edge and anxious. Like I previously said, I really liked Dead Silence and Insidious, and I thought this was the best of the 3.

        I’m not familiar with the “real” case and I highly suspect 90% of this was added to the original story (like A Haunting in Connecticut) to make a better film, but it’s a highly effective haunted house film and didn’t rely too much on any CGI, which is awesome.

        • frank_dracman

          Hey, as long as it’s entertaining and things actually happen (looking at you, Paranormal Activity) I’m all for it. Any movie using practical effects and only CGI when needed has my seal of approval. Like that means anything.

  • Jsin

    I don’t believe in the paranormal, but that doesn’t stop me from looking or trying to see if there is anyting else out there. Personally I can’t wait to see this movie. I love ghost, creepy graveyards and haunted house films. Based on real events, or not I’m all in.

  • LSD Zombie

    I don’t normally cheer on directors, but I’m really happy for James Wan. He’s really grown as a filmmaker and I think he’ll continue to wow us for years to come. To be perfectly honest, Insidious affected me more than all of the Paranormal Activity movies combined. Which is surprising to me considering I rarely get creeped out by films like that.

  • Caltien

    “Professional and spiritual”? “Warmth and sensitivity”? Ed and Lorraine Warren were con artists who preyed on gullible people’s fears. They were absolute scum, and shame on the filmmakers for portraying them as anything more than that.

    • Sirand

      You could say the same thing about exorcism but would you deprive yourself of appreciating a classic like The Exorcist?

      Yes, paranormal research is bunk. But The Conjuring is a damn good movie (and that’s the key word: MOVIE).

      • Caltien

        Correct me if I’m wrong — I freely admit I could be flat-out incorrect — but wasn’t Blatty’s book and the subsequent movie only remotely “based on a true story” (like so many stories are?), and all the characters were pretty much made up from whole cloth? That’s apples and oranges. The Warrens were (are, in Lorraine’s case) real, living con artists who really hurt and robbed people. The Exorcist analogy would only work if “Father Kerras” was a real-life person by that name who did the same thing IRL.

        I’m not complaining because paranormal research is bunk. I like lots of movies about paranormal research. I’m complaining because it makes a couple of real swindlers look like good people. (and those are the key words: REAL PEOPLE).

        • Sirand

          True, in The Exorcist the names were changed and it was heavily dramatized – but that makes little difference to me. The Catholic church – particularly with “exorcisms” – have reaped a lot of harm but I’m not going to get upset that the film puts them in an incredibly positive light.

          Having done research and documentaries on this subject, I never once came away believing the Warrens were deliberate con artists. Fame-seekers, maybe…but not wretched people. I genuinely believe that they believe what they’re speaking about. I personally just think they’re incredibly superstitious and more than a little crazy.

          The Conjuring is first and foremost a work of Hollywood that plays it fast and loose with the “based on a true story” claim. Yeah, it portrays the Warrens as much saner than they really were/are… but that’s key to giving the narrative actual stakes. In that regard, it works like gang-busters. The movie isn’t just good, it’s this generation’s “The Haunting.”

  • kiddcapone

    So….it’s on the same level as Bait 3D and one half knife short of The Chernobyl Diaries and The Devil Inside ???

    • Uncle Creepy

      Exactly! 😉

  • Sirand

    The Conjuring is very, VERY good and honestly scared me which is really hard to do these days. Wan directed the hell out of it and the performances are all fantastic. Really enjoyed it.