After I originally had planned to see James Wan’s new film “The Conjuring” on its opening night (which due to the lack of respect of others, I had to walk out!) I returned to the cinema with my sister the next morning to see the film. In the modern world of horror films hollywood seems to be churning out remakes, sequels or different versions of the same film. These are gimmicky attempts to frighten the viewer, with taglines like “The scariest movie ever made!!” etc, and you walk out of the cinema feeling let down.
Here we have James Wan (Insidious, Saw) with his much-anticipated possession film “The Conjuring” he decided to cast Patrick Wilson (Insidious, Hard Candy) again, along with a newcomer to the horror genre, Vera Farmiga (The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas, The Departed) the two play Ed and Lorraine Warren, who are very well-known experts in paranormal investigations, Demonologists, whatever you wish to call them. They have dealt with many cases, but none like the one they encounter here, at a small remote farmhouse in Rhode Island, which has been bought by a family of seven. The Perrons, Carolyn, (played by Lili Taylor) and Roger (played by Ron Livingston) and their five daughters.
Shortly after the family moves in, strange occurrences start to begin in and around the house, eventually after things escalate to the point that Carolyn starts to fear for her life and the lives of her husband and children, she seeks out The Warrens, in the hopes that they may be able to help. I had read some reviews about the film before seeing it, some good, some average. Insidious, Wan’s last film, being what I think is the best in the genre, it was always going to be hard to build on that but I was still very much looking forward to this!
First off I like the casting choices here, Wilson plays these type of roles really well, he isn’t trying to over sell it, but he is believable in his charisma on-screen and the actions his character take. Vera Farmiga is a wonderful actress and a great counterpart for Wilson, she has some very good scenes in the film to. The family do look like a real family, I commend Wan on his casting choices, all the young girls have some past experience but are still learning the craft, they still manage to hold their own. Joey King who plays Christine, I thought one of her scenes she played it up a bit too much and it felt forced it very much seemed like acting, she was still good but I think she was the weak link in the film.
The camera work and overall look of the film is fantastic, I can’t really fault it. The attention to detail in the 70’s era setting of the film is immaculate, right down to the furniture, the radio, the clocks, the wallpaper, you can tell everything in the frame was important to Wan. There is also some really effective camera work, one particular scene with a character running down a passage way, we get a rotating camera from the rooftop, really cool. In certain scenes it changes to some great steady cam shots, which can be very effective, especially in some of the creepy cellar scenes. Combine all of this with the little trick’s of light here and there, and the overall lighting of the film, you have a very atmospheric horror film. Although not the most original storyline, the particulars and technical aspects have not been rushed and it shows here in the quality of the work. The only thing that wasn’t a stand out to me was the score, it was a solid backing for some of the scenes, the low-end bass stuff building up in particular was good, none the less, it didn’t have that down right creepy/eerie aspect that the Insidious score and theme had.
The film runs a good length, it doesn’t feel like 112 minutes, probably because there is a fair bit happening. Initially, during the opening act, it does feel a little slow to build, but that is a good sign of not giving away too much, to early. I had viewed the trailer (like most people) so some of the good scares had been shown, which was a little disappointing. I did still find a few scenes where I jumped and for the most part the film is very suspenseful, definitely not a shock value film but based purely on tension.
I like a few of the subtle nods to us horror fans 😉 I am always looking for it, I spotted a few, like The Shining reference, with the young girl in the hallways of the house navigating from door to door in her dressing gown. Also a bit of Saw and the Bride of Chucky, with Annabelle, the insanely creepy doll that appears throughout the film, in hindsight I would have like to see more focus on the doll because it was so creepy. I even like something as subtle as not having the alpha male character that doesn’t believe in the haunting (and just has to attempt to prove everybody wrong… until of course, some scary as shit happens to him, that he has no choice but to get a priest!) I am very happy this cliché was not used in the film.
Overall I thought this was a very well made, genuine horror suspense film. I don’t think it hits the mark like Insidious did, I think James had the opportunity to scare more and have the payoff be even greater than it was. There were a few issues with characters actions and maybe not discovering the full length of what was going on with the other daughters. I do however, like the way he wrapped up the film and didn’t give us the “final scare” we are so very use to seeing, that was clever. I look forward to Insidious 2 being released later in the year and hopefully he can keep making these crowd pleasing films, I don’t think you will see one better than this all year, so make sure you get out to a local cinema and check it out!
My rating for The Conjuring is 7/10