Classic haunted house—mostly.
The Conjuring aggrandizes legendary scam artists Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) in this haunted house chiller from James Wan. The movie plays hard on the viewers’ nostalgia of good old fashioned haunted house stories with strong characters and competent directing. The characters are truly what separate this film from many others.
The Warrens decide to help the Perron family rid their home of an evil spirit. The Perron’s have way too many children, and this is probably why the demon chose to haunt them (joking). You could call the story clichéd, but a better way to put it would be classic. The haunting and investigation are surprisingly entertaining, and the film provides enough decent chills to hold your attention. Oddly, the film creeped out both of our dogs, so I am not sure what that means.
Everyone in the film is likable. The characters feel genuine, and the film jumps over the stupid “I don’t believe you” storyline that plagues so many horror films. Further, the parents aren’t jerks, the Warrens aren’t inept, and the children aren’t annoying. The film simply has good characters that defy all expectations and won’t piss you off.
The haunting itself is interesting even if it is a little familiar. Cursed land and witches is nothing new, but the jump scares and tense nighttime moments work surprisingly well. I like the kids in the film, so I genuinely cared when they were in danger. The first ¾ of the film are a fun and interesting horror film that works as a perfect entry point for the genre. Seriously, this is the film you show a newcomer to supernatural horror.
Unfortunately, the last chunk of the film falls into the standard possession/exorcism trope. Since this trope involves people just yelling at each other it kind of sucks—no amount of good characters can make Latin mumbo-jumbo and shouting that interesting. The ending of the film is annoying, but it doesn’t necessarily ruin the show. I think there would have been more interesting ways to conclude the film that kept the focus on the characters.
For mainstream horror, this is about the best we can expect to see. Wan is an interesting director in that he seems able to bridge more popular horror with actual storytelling. I don’t think everything he touches turns to gold, but seeing his name under the helm of director certainly makes me give a film a close look. Hardened fans of the genre might walk away wanting more, but the competency cannot be denied. Further, for people who want more of a chiller than something outright horrifying—this is your ticket. 7.5/10