The Conjuring – Film Review
Vera Farmiga, thank god for you.
Oh, it’s pretty scary and cool, too.
TL;DR Genuinely scary, genuinely tense, and also a lot of fun. The Conjuring plays things a little too safe, but it’s easily the overall best possession/ghost horror movie I’ve seen in years. 4 out of 5 stars.
And there have been many.
The plot is an adaptation of a real life case investigated by Ed and Lorraine Warren. Lili Taylor and Ron Livingston move themselves and their 5 daughters into a house in the country. Paranormal activity ensues, so who they gonna call? The Warrens. Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera) determine the house is inhabited by a mean old witch who likes to possess women and kill their children, and she’s got her claws dug into Lili already. The Warrens and their crew fight the clock to get Vatican permission for an exorcism, but Ed is forced to perform it himself when things start to pop off. All ends well, after some truly horrifying possession antics from Lili. Subplots include the witch threatening the Warrens’ own daughter; and a creepy, unrelated possessed doll named Annabelle.
Who really should get her own movie.
The Conjuring is genre at its best. It gives you everything you want and expect, and it does it exceptionally well.
My only major problem with this is that it doesn’t offer anything particularly new. There’s a reason you have a pre-existing want and expectation for the scares it delivers: because you’ve seen them before.
Whereas Insidious was balls-to-the-wall crazy and magical and insistent, The Conjuring is its grown up, more humourless big sister.
Why I hate this movie:
It hits all the beats that you expect from a possession movie these days: things start slow at first; the dog dies; the kids experience random spookiness; clocks stop at a certain time; Lili starts getting bruises; things escalate, and the paranormal investigators find evidence; the exorcism doesn’t go smoothly. The usual.
The punches are severely pulled by not even letting anyone die. Or even get hurt. The cop gets a bit of skin bitten off his face, but other than that, there are no significant injuries. And no character deaths. I want my bodycount, bitches.
Vera Farmiga doesn’t get to soar in her role. She kind of just stands around and occasionally looks pensive. I don’t know, I guess I just assumed she would be a badass, ghostbusting beast.
Ed also senses this frailty, and tries to stop her from getting too close to the case to protect her. Bitch, Vera is coming. Don’t even try to deny her.
The CGI is sparse, but there is one instance which smacks you a bit with how obvious it is. A flock of crows start kamikaze-ing the house during the climax, and they are a terrible, computer generated mess. They don’t even add anything to the movie. They break a couple of windows, then disappear. Cut it, baby.
Oh, and Annabelle doesn’t do enough. Fingers crossed for the spinoff. Good god, I want it.
But it’s not all bad:
Recent possession/ghost movies that The Conjuring is better than:
- The Last Exorcism Part II
- The Devil Inside
- Dark Skies (aliens, but similar MO)
- The Innkeepers
- The Apparition
- The Possession
- The Woman in Black
- The Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia
- any of the Paranormal Activity movies
Recent possession/ghost movies that The Conjuring is not better than:
I like those numbers. And it’s still better than Sinister and Evil Dead in some ways.
The key to The Conjuring being effective is being simple and being scary. Which it doubtlessly achieves. My favourite scare in the whole movie would have to be the stray sheet flying against an invisible entity. Holy fuck.
Other choice moments would be one of the daughters getting pulled out of bed Paranormal Activity style; Lili getting attacked in the cellar and having hands behind her clap out her match (like the game her daughters were playing earlier); the witch using Annabelle to scare the Warrens’ daughter in their own home; and of course, during the exorcism, when the background rumble evaporates and Lili’s chair rotates and flies upwards. Wow.
Oh, and when that daughter gets dragged around the lounge room by her hair. That witch be a bitch, girl.
The opening with the Annabelle case is terrifying. She’s a demon-infested doll who apparently suffers from a bit of separation anxiety. Chilling. Seeing her unflinching face behind glass in the Warrens’ museum of horrors is not comforting. As their daughter discovers.
Lorraine is investigating a crawl space at one point, and she falls through the rotted interior of the house all the way from the top floor to the basement. She’s one rough bitch.
I appreciate that the entity was clearly defined: she’s a Salem witch (a real one) who killed her own baby and herself. And her objective is clear: possess people to continue the cycle of child murder. Clean and simple.
In one scene, the witch vomits blood into Lili’s mouth. I love it.
Best line of the movie goes to Lili in an early scene:
Daughter: “There was a really funky smell in my bedroom last night. Like something died.”
Lili: “Is it still there?”
Lili: “Problem solved!”
If it wasn’t for the possession stuff, it would have been very good parenting.
Lorraine’s outfits are sublime. That collared get-up is perfect for her.
The Warrens get a call at the end of a movie to go on a new investigation.
The Warrens hold steadfast in their religious beliefs, but aren’t zealots. It’s nice.
Oh, and although I’m sad about the lack of bodycount, I am also opposed to a kill ’em all ending, so I’m glad it didn’t go down that route, either.
I came to see Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson string up some ghosties, and what I got was the most competent, well cast, respectable haunting/possession movie I’ve seen in the last 2 years. It could have used a little more blood, though. 4 out of 5 stars.