The Conjuring (2013) movie review
Special thanks to Taylor Dudrey suggesting this review! (And also lending me this movie to watch…)
Released in 2013, The Conjuring is very loosely based on the true cases of Ed and Lorraine Warren, a self-professed demonologist and a clairvoyant, who worked together as paranormal investigators. In this case, the Warrens are asked to aid a family who become terrorized by dark forces after moving into a new house. On a $20 million budget, this James Wan horror film was an outstanding critical and financial success, garnishing positive reviews and a whopping $320 million worldwide gross. This obviously ensured that the film would see a slew of sequels and spinoffs, which have led The Conjuring to be arguably the biggest horror cinematic universe in Hollywood. (That might be by default though…)
So here’s what happened: When The Conjuring came out, I wasn’t too big on horror films. I have grown to really like them, but I didn’t get around to watching this one. The the second one came out. I hadn’t seen the first, and horror sequels typically aren’t good. So I skipped it. All of the sudden, there’s like five of these movies and I’ve missed out on the entire CCU (Conjuring Cinematic Universe?) So with the third film out, we decided to catch up on this series! Which ended up being just the two movies… And you know what, if the first Conjuring is the best of the bunch as critics would suggest, I don’t care about the rest.
This movie is eight years old, so I don’t take too much time dwelling on it considering I’ve got two more of these to get through at least. But even putting aside the glorification of what most people agree were scam artists, I thought The Conjuring was a very generic and honestly dull horror flick lacking anything that helps it stand above the its inspirations that go back more than thirty years. That said, as much as these films don’t deserve credit for using the ‘true story’ gimmick as a lure, James Wan’s direction seems to be the only clear standout here.
The suspense building, which did very much change in horror to adapt the feel of films just like this, is quite good, even when the payoffs aren’t. For the most part, Wan uses textbook horror suspense building, including repetition, laying down the ambient mood early on, and using sound to keep us unnerved. Except there is one thing I noticed that this film does brilliantly: The long takes. Wan and cinematographer John R. Leonetti swoop in and take us on long, moving shots that layout the locations and characters. Then we return to those unbroken shots when it’s building up to a scare. (Or whatever passes for a scare in this movie.) Still, keeping the audience hooked in a long take makes us feel like we can’t get away, and that’s consistently well utilized in this film.
Aside from that, there isn’t much to impress. The pacing is fine, but the finale is a bit anticlimactic. The performances are all good, but even as good as Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga are, even they can’t manage to land every line in this movie. I saw that because, despite honest intentions at aiming for a small scale story, it’s really silly sometimes. Maybe the dialogue made it hard to invest, but after the first act, even the tension building seems ineffective. But as much as the first act had my heart going, there still wasn’t anything that I found genuinely scary. Even by Insidious (2010) standards, Conjuring feels very mild.
So it could be the fact that this movie was a bunch of very average horror elements tossed together with very few actual scares, but I just couldn’t get into The Conjuring. I thought it was very below average aside from being a well shot movie. So here’s hoping the second one is better! (And that it gives Vera Farmiga more to do.) But if you haven’t seen The Conjuring yet, I’m not sure you need to. 5/10.
So The Conjuring? Did you see it? What did you think? And what is your favorite film in this series and why? Be sure to leave a like or a comment below and let us know! And stay tuned for a few more scary reviews coming soon!
-review by Ryan Prince