Sunday, 1 September 2013

The Conjuring (2013): Review

The Conjuring is a 2013 supernatural horror film. Directed by James Wan (Saw, Insidious) starring Patrick Wilson (Insidious) and Vera Farmiga (Bates Motel). The film is based on real-life events surrounding paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren during the 1970s.

The film opens with a flashback to the infamous "Annabelle doll" case , a seemingly harmless (but extremely creepy) doll that has unfortunately been possessed by a demon and is now terrorising it's owners. Fast forward to the here and now (of 1971) and we're introduced to the Warrens in their fantastically designed museum of the occult. Of course it's not long before they're pulled back into the field when the Perron family start to experience paranormal activity about their Rhode Island farmhouse and seek the Warren's help to exorcise their demons. However, as we all know, you can't just call up your friendly neighbourhood exorcist and crack on! You need to gather a sufficient amount of evidence in order for the Catholic church to grant an exorcism and through this investigation process we discover the macabre history of the Perron family's new abode.

If you've seen Insidious (which I liked) then you'll know what to expect from this period ghost story and, much like Insidious, it walks a fine line between tradition and cliche. However, the film ends up on the side of tradition through a more subtle approach of "what you don't see", something that Insidious employed in it's first half but rather spectacularly lost control of towards it's climax. This is used to great effect during an extremely tense scene where a Perron child insists that there is something behind the open door of her bedroom but neither her siblings, nor the viewer, are given any glimpse of the phantom. Indeed the antagonist (a demon witch if you're interested) is never seen in plain view but merely glimpsed at regular intervals for only a few seconds at a time and the temptation to let loose is resisted still in the climactic exorcism scene, a clear sign of a traditional horror film by a director who clearly understands the genre.

Another element that set it apart from it's contemporary doppelganger and emphasised the vintage elements was the effort put into the period setting. Gaudy wallpaper, lush Patrick Wilson sideburns and even a 70s horror font on the title card hark back lovingly to this blogger's favourite decade for horror films. In further attention to detail the paranormal investigation equipment is a curious collection of analogue equipment including light bulb EMP detectors and segments filmed through a grainy super 8 style camera. All these subtle touches give a fresh spin on a somewhat exhausted haunted house/possession sub-genre.

The best way to describe The Conjuring is The Amityville Horror done in the Insidious style, which is no bad thing as those two great movies combine to make another one here. However derivative these kind of films might be it's always a joy to be viewing an original  property and not another terrible 70s remake and as horror fans we must always commend this effort. The Conjuring is a fantastic contemporary horror film which draws on all the right areas of the ghost story sub genre and I, for one, would welcome another film featuring the Ed and Lorraine Warren characters, perhaps more in the New York area?....

**** 4 Stars

What did you think of the conjuring? How do you think it compares to Insidious?


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