Shortly after moving into their new farmhouse in the country, the Perron family started experiencing supernatural tendencies. At first, the disturbances were minimal; almost indistinguishable from the moans and sighs of an ancient, creaky house settling in. However, as time went on, many frequent mortifying sequences displayed proof that these occurrences were no dream, no projection of the imagination, but the dreaded undead. It soon became apparent that these spirits had no intentions of leaving. Desperately long nights of ghastly torment made Carolyn Perron fear for her daughters’ lives. Her despair led her to Ed and Lorraine Warren, the notorious professionals of the beyond.
Before seeing the movie myself (and after), all I had heard about The Conjuring was extremely positive. Horror fans near and far took to twitter and Facebook to express the terror he or she felt upon viewing James Wan’s latest film, with exciting words like “disturbing”, “terrifying”, and “scary”. After reading so much praise for the movie, and hearing some people go as far to say that it was the scariest film they’d seen in a while, I found myself counting down the days until July 19th, 2013. Contrary to the norm, I didn’t leave the theater feeling petrified, but rather, disappointed.
Although there are some nail-biting scenes, the entire film felt as though it were building up to a frightening grand finale, and the ending just felt like a letdown. This rang especially true because the Warrens kept emphasizing how horrible this particular case was compared to the rest of the work that they had done. Personally, when the lights came on, all I could think was, “that’s it?”.
The main problem lies in the ending. James Wan, as accomplished as he is, seems to have had some trouble ending his movies. With the exception of Saw, many of his films stride along smoothly until the final act. For instance, Insidious is a truly creepy feature, until the last ten minutes of the movie. Once the demon was shown in its entirety, every ounce of strained emotion that Wan had managed to wrangle from his audience was released with a sigh, and perhaps even a chuckle, because it simply looked silly. The same can be said for The Conjuring, which built up suspense with melodramatic statements like “we’ve never dealt with anything this bad before”, and “she’s fighting for her soul”, only to release the tension with an unrealistic, crowd-pleasing ending.
Despite my disappointment, I did enjoy some interesting aspects about this troubling tale of demonic possession. For one, there is some superb acting by Vera Farmiga and Lili Taylor. Also, with the feel of an old haunted house, and a well balanced use of digital effects, the return to old school horror is something that any fan of the genre can appreciate. There’s some really nice, nostalgic shots, that make the movie feel like a slasher straight out of the ’70s. It’s a nice throwback to old school horror, but it relies too much on cliches that we’ve seen before.
Altogether, The Conjuring is fun to watch, but if you decide that you just want to wait until you can watch it at home, it’s wouldn’t be the end of the world. In fact, it might be better anyway because it would be quieter, which is what a haunted house tale like this needs.