I will begin this review by stating that I am no Horror Movie Maven. I’m easily frightened and I will jump and squeal like a scalded cat should someone jump out at me from behind a door. Even if I know that person is there. I’m a wimp. I recall one night watching the Director’s Cut of The Exorcist in my bedroom. When I finally managed to fall into a fitful sleep afterwards the television inexplicably turned itself back on, showing only static, which instantly woke me up. I ejected the disc from my PS2 (this was a while ago), put it back into its box and deposited it on the top stair of the landing. Don’t ask what my logic behind this was, but I had to get the DVD out of my room. That’s not the worst of it either; after watching The Exorcism of Emily Rose I couldn’t let myself sleep before 3am for two weeks. Because everything in the movie happened at the 3am “witching hour”, and, you know, if nothing happened before then I’d be safe from demonic possession. Only then could I sleep. With the light on, of course.
My admitted cowardice aside, I did really want to see The Conjuring. I do enjoy director James Wan’s work and I’ve heard very positive reviews about what is being heralded as the scariest movie in a decade. So I steeled myself and watched. Naturally I made sure I wasn’t alone this time.
The Breakdown: The Conjuring is the “based on true events” story of the haunting of the Perron family and the subsequent aid of “demonologist” husband and wife tag-team extraordinaire, the Warrens. When Roger (Ron Livingston) and Carolyn Perron (Lili Taylor) move to a new house with their five daughters they begin (almost immediately we’re thrown into some spooky stuff, like on the VERY FIRST DAY!) to experience some strange paranormal events. When it becomes apparent to the pair that they cannot handle the situation (and typically they can’t move because, you know, they’ve no money) they seek out Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) who are doing some guest lectures about evil ghosties and whatnot at a University. Further freaky crap ensues.
What I liked:
- It’s a strong opener, with the audience getting an insight into what exactly the Warrens do, and we’re shown the story behind one of the scariest looking dolls I’ve ever seen.
- The Perrons getting settled in to their new digs. I have to admit, I loved the house. The feel of the movie is great too. It’s set in the seventies and quite believably so. No flairs or afros in sight, but that was only the briefest of disappointments. And one cannot argue with a soundtrack that includes a tune from The Zombies.
- There was one particular scene I absolutely loved. It took place in one of the girls’ shared rooms. It was simple, it was highly suggestive and I’ll be honest, I could hear my heartbeat in my own ears. Serious props to young actress Joey King, who gave an inspiring performance.
- Vera Farmiga. She’s my new lady crush.
What I disliked:
- The Perron children play this weird game called “Hide and Clap”. At first it eluded my understanding. I mean, don’t these children have toys? Anyway it becomes an evident recurring theme throughout the rest of the film, so it has its place and I guess I can’t complain too much.
- Nobody ever listens to their dog in these movies. Why not? Dogs are like young children; they have this innate sixth sense when presented with anything abnormal. If my dog started barking at a house and refused to cross the threshold I’d be pretty freaked out.
- The movie felt busy. There was so much going on, so many different spirits. I understand this was to portray just how dangerous this house was, and later when the story behind it unfolds it makes sense, but still, it was sort of overwhelming.
On the whole this movie was enjoyable. The cast were excellent, and it isn’t often that happens in the horror genre. I wouldn’t agree that it is the “scariest movie in the last decade” or anything so hyperbolic, but it was a solid enough scare, and will hopefully lead a progression of similar horror to follow. While very alike, I personally thought Insidious was scarier, excluding the last thirty minutes of it. I find I stop being scared after the veil of mystery is stripped away and we actually get to see what we’re supposed to be afraid of. Let’s face it, our imaginations are usually much worse than anything we get to see on-screen or on page.
The Conjuring is what I call “classic horror”. It is suspenseful, adrenaline-filled non-stop action and you cannot escape the feeling of despair throughout. It manages to engage the observer without resorting to excessive gore or unnecessary nudity. If you’re looking for topless babes with bouncing boobs bounding away from a scarred, chainsaw-wielding maniac, then this is not the flick for you.