The Conjuring (2013)

Posted by Maria Mills | Posted on 1:10 AM | Posted in

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Movie Review written by: Born Movie Reviews
RT Critics Rating: 8.4/10

Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 9/10

THE CONJURING (2013) - James Wan

...I think when it comes to watching recent American horror films in the theater... I have never been more terrified in my life... Within the first ten minutes, the film already ties us to the edge of our chairs, with yellow typewriting text explaining the controversial deeds of the Warren family. As the text scrolls up slowly, and the movie title scrolls up afterward, along with a swelling music queue of string instruments, I already knew that James Wan has done something brilliant this time...

The Conjuring takes place in the year 1971, and is based on a true story about paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga), who come to the assistance of the Perron family, who are experiencing increasingly disturbing events in their house. Soon, the Warrens discover that the house is flooded with malevolent spirits.

If you have seen Wilson before in Insidious, also directed by James Wan, then you will be very impressed to see his improvement in acting here. His colloration with Farmiga brings about a smart and caring chemistry. As paranormal investigators, they are really knowledgable and calm to the people who sought for their help. There are moments where the suspicious people think their house is haunted but the Warrens reveal that there's no ghost, it's just that the weird sounds are coming from rusted pipes or creaky wood planks. Basically, they really know when a spirit is present, and since we get to see evidence of them working and succeeding, we believe in this pair of paranormal investigators. They are the most trustworthy ones to help you out. What the Warrens never expected, though, is the Perron family case was going to be much more twisted and insidious (see what I did there?) than they thought.

By the way, the Perron family has five daughters, and when they get scared, they really truly do get scared. These girls will cry their eyes out, lose their breath, and start to lose their voice when they tell their parents what they just saw. This all occurs in the first forty minutes, where the film does nothing but build up the intensity, the suspense, and the terrifying horror that is present in the house. This leads me to what is inevitably the strongest part of The Conjuring...

The Conjuring is proof that James Wan is maturing as a horror film director. In Insidious, Wan seemed to appear very new in the supernatural genre, and he tried many things to see what worked. Here, it looks like Wan has taken notes of what is most effective in his past scares, and turned it up to eleven here in this movie. Probably the most efficient aspect that he improved on is the cinematography, the creepy camerawork. American cinematic horror has never been as good as this for so long. Allow me to explain Wan's diabolically clever scare tactics:

Throughout the entire movie, the camera tends to follow a character when he is walking down a hallway. This is usually when a character hears a strange noise and he goes to a certain room to investigate. The camera will then "walk" down the hallway with the person, "turn corners" with the person, and "open doors" with the person. Then it will come to a very familiar type of shot in horror cinema, where a character will open a closed door into a room and he will turn to the right to see if anyone is there. The camera will then turn right for us to look. Nope, this part is empty. Then the camera will turn left. Nope, empty as well. Then the camera will sort of move into the room and turn 180 degrees to show the character's facial reaction of "No, there's nothing here." Usually, at this point, we see something creepy behind the person or some scary queue in the frame that the character is not aware of but we, the audience, are. But, in this smart movie, for many countless times, there is absolutely nothing in the frame that is scary. The room is truly empty. In other words, Wan constantly debunks our guesses throughout the entire narrative. When we think a scare is going to come up at a specific place, it does not show up. Effectively, this debunkery builds the suspense throughout the entire film. Even better, Wan here sometimes pulls a Sam Raimi and debunks a predicted scare, and once we take a breath knowing there's nothing, he throws in a scare at a place and time that we never expected. To be frank, I lost count how many times I was expecting a scare and I surprisingly did not get one, and then jumped when I wasn't ready to take in a scare.

Oh, and one more thing: The Conjuring took familiar sound effects that we have all heard before, and made it scary. Don't understand? You know how in every killer movie, a familiar sound like a door knock or a phone ringing will suddenly scare us when in daily life, it doesn't? You know the notorious ringtone from One Missed Call? The croaking sound from Ju-On? It is a simple sound effect in which once we hear it or see it, we know something terrifying is about to happen, but we don't know what. Believe me, after seeing guts splatter over the screen from Evil Dead, I can see that gorey visuals cannot even begin to compare with the sound of hands clapping and a well-placed doll...

Inevitably, yes, The Conjuring is very formulaic and you have seen this kind of plot before. It is basically what every haunted house movie is about. You might as well call it The Exorcism of Amityville. For some critics, the film is possessed (haha) by other horror films. Surely, you have seen cliche scary stuff like this before. But the key thing is, you have never seen the cliche scary stuff be done so well like this before. Not in a long time. Also, some might find the climax a bit unsatisfying or not scary enough? For me, it's the most logical way to end. And by the way, for the very last shot of the movie... James Wan is a brilliant motherf***er.

In conclusion, The Conjuring is without a doubt, one of the best if not the best American horror film in recent years. The scares themselves are very classic and old-school, but with a smart director, who knows how to craft location, and knows how to pace tension, the film might wind up being a new modern horror classic for American audiences. Though its content is familiar, it is extremely intense and frightening. Not only is it proof that James Wan is getting better and better at making cinematic horror, but it also gives film-critic-horror-movie lovers like me a brand new form of hope that the horror genre is far from dead.

Box Office Prediction: $100-150 million

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