The crisp chills that drift upon the autumn air, smells of pumpkin spice fill virtually every culinary shop (and I do mean EVERY), and the piles of Halloween candy begin to line the shelves. For everyone it is fall. For anyone under the age 13, its trick-or-treating season. For everyone older than that, its horror movie time!
Every Halloween season horror movie directors hope for a seasonally perpetuated interest in the spooky genera. This year’s release of interest was James Wan’s “The Conjuring”. Wan has already made a name for himself in the horror film community, directing such hits as “Saw” and “Insidious” he has built up quite a reputation for being a master of suspense and scares.
The “based on a true story” flick follows a case investigated by the famed Warren family. A viewer favorite, bringing over $41,000 in box office and receiving a very impressive 81% on the Rotten Tomatoes’ reviewing page as well as receiving a mention in their “Best Horror Movies” countdown. The movie terrified audiences, spawning many online pictures of scared looking viewers brandishing holy objects and many more stating things along the lines of “Yea, I haven’t slept for days” and “I think I peed a little”.
But, at the risk of both being shunned by the film community, and becoming demonically possessed, I must disagree with the hype surrounding “The Conjuring”.
If we all believed every “based on a true story” tagline attached to modern film, most of us probably wouldn’t even dare to venture out from under our beds. Though both viewers and members of “The Conjuring” production team swear up and down that this was in fact based rather closely off of a true story.
After a little bit of digging around (trust me it wasn’t hard, the true stories tie was very publicized) it was reveled that the story is based on one of the real life paranormal cases of Ed and Lorraine Warren (http://www.warrens.net/).
After the Perron family moves into an old farmhouse all seems well, that is, until all hell breaks loose. The young girls in the family seem to see things lurking around corners at night, moving things and touching them while they sleep. The entire family experiences the strange occurrence of waking up at 3:07 almost nightly. That’s where the Warrens are brought in.
The Warren family are a pair real life “Ghostbusters” if you will. Ed, a demonologist and his clairvoyant wife Lorraine investigated many paranormal anomalies debunking many of the false ones. The Warren’s were present for many famed investigations, including “The Amityville Horror” and house a museum of cursed objects in their home, now available for public touring.
Between moments of horror and jump scares, the film exhibits excellent cinematic value. Camera shots are clear and precise without defaulting the cliché “dark” horror movie feel. Aesthetically the film was a pure joy to watch, a mix of bright and dark contrasting colors made for interesting objects and camera shots. The music box for example, is trimmed in red contrasting the dark background colors and drawing the eye to it immediately. Through pure normality, the film brings out the beauty of horror. The house seems, well like a house. The yard, like a typical back yard. Perhaps that is what people find so scary about the movie. It was so incredibly normal, bringing out true to life attributes rather than over exaggerated techniques. In interview film director James Wan states “ I want to bring tension and suspense to my dramatic scenes and my action sequences”. Wan obviously seeks to build tension rather than the typical jump scares throughout the film. Much like a rubber band, he seeks to put the audience at the edge of their seats, to keep them tense and nervous until the eventual snap.
Scripting was also a highlight of the film. It seems as though horror movies have at least one line causing audiences to sigh and shake their heads. The Conjuring, was a pleasant surprise however. Very few lines of the film seemed out of place, once again many had a very “real” feel. Perhaps one of the biggest helps to the script was the wonderful acting brought to the film. Child actors; Shanley Caswell (Andrea), Hayley McFarland (Nancy), Joey King (Christine), Mackenzie Foy (Cindy), and Kayla Deaver (April) all deserve a special mention for fantastic acting. All of the young actors brought incredible believability and conviction to each moment of the film, throwing themselves fully into the film they pleased audiences and deserve to be applauded greatly. Similarly, the adult actors in the film did brilliantly as well, truly convincing audiences of the utmost fear they felt.
The one flaw in the film was arguably not the fault of the producers, but that of the consumers. Reportedly, audiences were terrified by the film, some stating they hadn’t slept well in days following the film, other using praises along the lines of “I think I peed a little”. In early screenings a warning outside theaters read;
“The film you are about to see is psychologically and emotionally disturbing. People who have attended early screening of the film have complained about many unusual circumstances that they have experienced after seeing the film. Due to our concern for your well-being, we have invited Father Perez to be here. He will be available after the film to provide spiritual support and/or conduct a personal blessing should you feel the need. Please do not hesitate to seek help. Ask a representative where you can sign up for a session with our priest.”
Though, the film does not seem quite as frightening as one might be lead to believe. I must argue that the film received a ridiculous amount of false hype in the “scary” section. Yes, the film does leave a lasting effect, and some images may be frightening and disturbing to audience members, but it is in no means a sleep altering film.
Through and through “The Conjuring” is a brilliant film that is worth the watch, honestly even worth a purchase of the dvd. Though the film is full of brilliant cinematic value, well written scripting, and vivid characters, its ultimate shortcoming is in the scare zone. While a good movie overall, it falls short of classics such as “The Shining” and “The Exorcist”. All in all, I give the film a 7.5 out of 10. So call Buffy, alert the Winchesters, pull out your crucifix and enjoy “The Conjuring”.