The Conjuring

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Frightening, well acted and well directed, “The Conjuring” is the Haunted House movie that horror fans have been waiting for. It skillfully savors the slight chills in the early going, then indulges in some outright jump in your seat moments before heading into the no holds barred ending.

This is a movie that is certain to be discussed as one of the best of the year, and likely to claim a spot in the discussion of all time great haunted house movies in years to come.

When the Perron family (with Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor as Father and Mother) moves into a new home, they quickly realize that not all is as it seems. The family dog won’t enter the house, the clocks stop every night at a little past three, and they’re constantly experiencing strange sounds and smells. They soon discover a boarded up basement filled with dusty antiques. Creepy quickly turns to frightening though, as the oddities and incidents become more violent and undeniably supernatural.

This leads them to seek out the help of Ed and Lorraine Warren (played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga), a married couple who are professional investigators into the paranormal. The audience is introduced to the couple in an opening sequence that shows them resolving a case involving a creepy, possessed doll. Later, as they lecture at a nearby University, Mrs Perron approaches them and pleads for their help. The Warrens agree, and immediately upon visiting are overwhelmed by the feeling of malevolence within the house. They begin a full scale investigation and discover that the property has a history of violent spiritual occurrences dating back for centuries. From there, the couple and their team strive to find a way to exorcise the spirits haunting the house, in spite of the inherent danger.

Will the Warrens be able to cleanse the house of the forces within?

Like most haunted house movies, “The Conjuring” begins slowly with strange and suspicious activity and builds until the signs of haunting are undeniable. Stopped clocks and things that go bump in the night eventually give way to physical encounters and glimpses of ghosts. It’s a tried and true formula, but “The Conjuring” really executes it in a masterful way. Curious events, strange phenomena and a boarded up, cobwebby basement lead to apparitions, flying objects and outright possessions. It’s a perfectly paced escalation that will have people constantly gasping and clutching the arm rests of their seats… just when they get accustomed to one level of scares, “The Conjuring” raises the bar to a new height.

Many haunted house movies begin well and end poorly, though. I’ve come to believe that it’s easy for movies about hauntings to be scary in the creaking floorboards/slowly opening doors/shadows moving behind people phase. Most of them, however, lose their balance as they enter their last act and reveal their “shark”. That’s certainly no issue here, though, thankfully. “The Conjuring” begins as a ghost story and ends as an exorcism movie. The shift in tone helps things stay fresh and helps avoid the typical “show the ghost” issues. Also, by the third act, you’re completely engrossed in the story and attached to the characters, so when the finale approaches and things hit a crescendo, you’re completely invested. The movie doesn’t overplay its hand, either; it skillfully orchestrates a batshit crazy, super intense ending without blowing the carefully established tone of suspense.

The acting is solid across the board, from the child performances to Livingston and Taylor as frightened parents  to Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as Ed and Lorraine Warren. It’s also extremely well directed by James Wan (“Saw”, “Insidious”), who uses fantastic shots and great editing to keep things visually interesting and help emphasize the scares.

“The Conjuring” is a movie that chills and frightens from beginning to end, with a clever, suspenseful haunting build up that leads to an explosive finale. It has genuine moments of shock and fright, great characters and solid acting. This is a film that has an excellent shot at my top ten this year, and potentially could even be considered for movie of the year (if nothing wows me in the second half). I absolutely hope to see some form of sequel that focuses on the further adventures of the Warrens and their paranormal investigations, it would be a shame to squander such a high quality premise.

A+

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65 thoughts on “The Conjuring

  1. Wow! High praise! I’m hearing such good things about this movie. I was going to write it off as another crappy horror movie (Can’t remember the last “scary” movie that I thought was at all good. Or scary). I’m having second thoughts about skipping out on this one now… Great review. :-)

  2. My husband is really looking forward to this, I am glad to hear it’s not a bust! It’s raining, maybe we will hit it this afternoon. I’ll let you know what we think.

      • We went, (w/ my 19 & 20 yr olds) we all liked it a lot. I was scared enough. (In fairness, i’m a little wimpy when it comes to this stuff). What we all seemed to like most was the fact that they didn’t do anything over the top, no major embellishments to create the horror effects..until the end. They only gave glimpses some times… let you feel it, experience it, and really invest yourself in the story. And even the ending… not over done!
        My girls said, “sorry Mom we’ll be honest..if we were that girl, we would not have been so quick to hug you!” Lol

        Here’s the irony of the whole thing: my phone vibrated during the movie…when I checked after it ended….. it was my Pastor! Lol

      • He was trying to save you from its evil grasp. LOL

        Glad to hear you all liked it. Yeah, I’m with your kids… that family was AWFUL quick on the forgiveness after that whole thing was over! I’d have held out for a make-up birthday present or something at least, LOL!! :D

  3. Wow, an A+?? I went into this movie with absolutely zero expectation (and actually just went to escape my non-air conditioned apartment), but I was very pleasantly surprised. I completely agree…the acting and directing were superb and blew every other haunted house movie out of the water. And the Hide and Clap gimmick was perfect for this kind of movie! I may or may not have hidden outside one of my friend’s windows when we got home to clap twice. lol

    • Yup, an A+. As far as I’m concerned this one hit it out of the park. As you say, compared to its contemporaries this one blows the competition away!

      And LOL, if you really did do the clap twice thing at your friend’s window, that’s pretty much hysterical :D Good times, Nicole.

  4. Nice review Fogs. I had a good time with this flick that I’m surprised I allowed to just take a hold of me. I wasn’t scared to the point of death really, but I got a bit creeped-out at points. But just don’t tell anybody. I’m still trying to seem like the coolest dude of my group who doesn’t get phased by a little bit of ghost stuff.

    • Hahah! Nice. :D

      I got startled a couple of times, but for the most part I was just deeply engrossed by it. This movie really pulled me in and didn’t let me go. That’s a sign of a high quality flick, right there ;)

  5. I dunno, I mean, it was okay, but I found it to be pretty hokey for the most part, even if there were some legitimately creepy moments here and there. Overall, it works, and sure, it’s better than a lot of the crappy horror films out there these days. But still, I wouldn’t consider it anything great or too memorable. *shrug*

    • You do make a good point about maintaining a fairly solid ending, though. That’s one major thing a lot of horror movies mess up on these days, so I will give the film that much.

    • Sorry you didn’t connect with it, buddy. It knocked my socks off. Slow build to a crazy finale, I was hooked every step of the way. Also loved the side bits about the Warrens and their other cases, loved their little haunted museum :D

      Horror movies this solid don’t come along too often…

  6. So glad you liked this one! I saw it on Saturday and I nearly shat my pants multiple times during this one. Definitely my favorite movie of the year so far – creepy, atmospheric and so well done. Farmiga and Taylor were just excellent.

    • Yup, I’m right with you. The year is only half way over, but if year end came around and there was nothing better out there, I wouldn’t have any problem with this winding up being movie of the year. It’s a lock for my top ten, for sure. You’re right, both actresses were great, too. I hope Farmiga gets to play this role again. Big time!! :D

  7. Wow, that’s some praise, Fogs. I’ve heard some rumblings that The Conjuring is a really good film (I’ll happily claim James Wan as an Aussie… LOL!!) and frankly, I’m pleased to see a genre film getting praise from ALL quarters, not just the horror junkies. I can’t wait to see it now!!

  8. Agree 100%. Not only was it scary but it was creepy (in a good way) throughout. Great job of acting and writing. This is definitely the best horror film of the year. I may even see it a second time before I buy it on BD.

    • It did have a lot of “creepy” to it, I loved it. I’ll give it the best horror movie of the year too (though I’m also a huge fan of the Evil Dead remake). I think it might wind up in the running for best movie of the year for me… It’s a lock for my top ten at least let’s put it that way. ;)

  9. Pingback: Review: The Conjuring | The Focused Filmographer

  10. Skipped right to your rating and I was SHOCKED! A horror film that actually delivers. And here I was not really expecting much from this one. Looks like I’ll make the effort to see this in the cinema!

    • I haven’t seen Insidious, but I’m ALL kinds of excited for the next Fast and Furious movie, natch! ;)

      This is one that will please his horror fanbase though, without a doubt Tyson…

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