The Conjuring is the new addition to James Wan’s list of supernatural horrors. With his previous works including Insidious and Saw, there’s an almost determined certainty of the delightfully creepy inclusions of poltergeists and demonic presence. But being up against Insidious 2 and quite clearly comparable to the original Paranormal Activity series, the question is whether The Conjuring stands up to its title of “one of the scariest movies of 2013” or whether this new sub-genre of horror is already getting a little old hat.
One aspect Wan certainly didn’t skimp on was the budget, with the production costing over $20 million. This was put to good use and from a cinematographic perspective the film was beautifully shot. With echoes of The Amityville Horror, the large and quite deliberately eerie country house was the center for a majority of the filming. The grand shots, crafted sound track and finely tuned affects are impressive and help generate the encompassing hell that Wan so successfully portrays in his work.
The movie received mixed reviews, although many positive, due to the clear homage to its predecessors including The Amityville Horror and The Exorcist. The storyline involves two demonologists Lorraine and Ed Warren (Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson) as they venture to save a family threatened by the demonic existence of their new home, a decrepit farm house in Rhode Island. The narrative is ultimately simple and although it does develop and progress, whether intentionally or not, there are definite repetitions of ghosts seen in the more recent rush of demonic themed movies. And whether intentionally or not, there are a few predictable and downright ridiculous moments, particularly as Lorraine is performing the exorcism on the possessed Carolyn Perron (Lilli Taylor). However, what’s interesting and important to consider is the opening credit promise: “based on a true story.” Much like the crafted lie in Paranormal Activity, used to create an atmosphere, here Wan is telling the truth. The Conjuring is based on an actual case, with the Warren and Perron families describing their experiences as genuine. While there has been much skepticism about the authenticity of their story, most horror fans would have to admit the “based on a true story” gimmick certainly adds some pepper to the viewing.
Regardless of the backstory, The Conjuring includes some irrefutably scary moments with thanks to the production and decent casting. It’s significant to understand the theatrical side to Wan’s horror, which at times can be lost by the critics as being hyperbolised and categorically silly. While there are some repeated themes that maybe more hard hitting the first time round, and the ending is nothing to sing about, there are some unique characters, decent shots and an overall sense of impending doom. Best keep the lights off for this one.
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