Twitter Plot Summary: Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren try to help a family who are targeted by some nasty spirits. Like cheap vodka.
Once more a family find themselves under threat from something supernatural and unknown in this 1970s set horror film. It does take some time for things to really get going – there are the usual false alarms and sense of unease just to get things moving, but when things start to get seriously spooky – like being dragged from your bed by an invisible being – it’s time to call in the professionals. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga are husband and wife ghost hunters Ed and Lorraine Warren, and The Conjuring is purportedly based on a true story from the archive of the real life Warrens. When we meet them they’re undergoing a few problems following an exorcism that affected Lorraine. As for the family, led by Lili Taylor and Ron Livingston as Carolyn and Roger Perron, she’s acquiring bruises like nobody’s business – not the result of domestic violence – and their daughters are all experiencing strange occurrences which may or may not be simple flatulence. There’s a bit of a smell, you see.
James Wan is on directorial duties, he of Saw and Insidious fame, and Fast 7 which is due in 2015. It’s another typical example of his work, a definitive article of the modern tradition of “quiet LOUD” horror cinema. This is perhaps the biggest complaint about The Conjuring, as the scares are deliberately placed to elicit the biggest jump from its mainstream audience. It can’t be described as a film that a long time fan of horror movies would appreciate, but it does its job reasonably well. Wan can at least construct a decent narrative and his style of direction is one that pays homage to the past yet has its own modern edge. Despite what you might think about his abilities as a director, he is at least capable of pulling as much tension as possible out of a situation merely from some deliberate pacing and cunning camera placement. The fact this is yet another example of jump scare cinema shouldn’t be held against it, just don’t go in expecting anything more than surface level chills.
It lacks the interesting twist that made the Insidious films as entertaining (if slightly mad) as they are, but otherwise The Conjuring is enjoyably creepy and the scares are effective if not particularly original. It’s further sold by the earnest performances from everyone in the cast, in particular Taylor as the harassed mother and a straight-faced, genuinely sincere performance from Wilson and Farmiga. The husband and most of the kids have little else to define them besides the fact they care for each other and are scared of what’s going on, but that’s all they get. The same goes for Drew and Brad, the men assisting the Warrens in their spooky investigations. In another world they would have been played by Leigh Whannell and Angus Sampson.
It may not have all of the elements that long time fans of horror movies want to see, but The Conjuring does at least popularise the genre and maybe, just maybe, some of these new inductees to the world of horror films may go off and gain an appreciation for some of the classics the genre has to offer. It’s got to be a better option than sitting in the cinema shrieking and behaving like a child in any case.