Unless years of careful preparation and endless horror film watching has completely desensitized you, chances are you will find ‘The Conjuring’ at least a little bit scary. James Wan’s highly lauded horror film made a huge impression on viewers this summer with what people were calling a return to old-school scary, a deviation from the post-9/11, fear-on-mass-level kind of horror, and the shock and and disgust of torture horrors like ‘Saw’ and ‘Hostel.’ I’m not typically very affected by horror movies. I’m more scared of the face I see in the mirror when I get up in the morning than the one menacing me one my TV screen. But ‘The Conjuring’ did leave an impression. It wasn’t as scary as I was setting myself up for it to be, but here’s where ‘The Conjuring’ stands apart from all other movies in the genre today; ‘The Conjuring’ is a fascinating film.
The movie is based on what it claims to be a true-to-life event in the lives of two families; the Perron family, a Rhode Island couple and their five daughters who bought a farmhouse in Harrisville in 1971, and Ed and Lorraine Warren, a pair of paranormal investigators who offered their services to people experiencing the weird and unnatural in their everyday lives. When Carolyn Perron seeks out the two self-titled demonologists for help, the two families find themselves bound together in mutual fear and determination to drive a disturbing presence out of the house of the Perron family. As the supernatural enemy grows more persistent and the Perrons grow more desperate, the Warrens discover that the haunting may be linked to the horrific and violent history of the farmhouse’s occupants, and that everyone in the house, including themselves, may be in greater danger than they realized.
The thing that separates ‘The Conjuring’ from other movies of the genre is the way it pulls you in. The scares are subtle and disturbing, and growing progressively darker and more intense and film continues. The characters of Ed and Lorraine are parcticularly well-acted by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga respectively. Their competence and calm creates a sense of safety and hope in the growing intensity of the situation, but the likeability and vulnerability of Lorraine make us afraid them and the Perrons. The mystery of the motive behind the haunting is gripping and interesting, slowly unraveling first as a seemingly strange and vaguely threatening haunting, and then growing into an eerie story of witchcraft, murder and demon possession. The movie’s climax involves an exorcism scene that comes off as cliche initially, but takes on a frightening turn as Perrons’ peril reaches a fever pitch.
Overall, ‘The Conjuring’ serves as a frightening and refreshing example of horror well done in the modern age. However, lights on might be a good idea if you scare easily. And whatever you do…don’t watch it in the basement.