34 years ago a horror film classic called “The Amityville Horror” hit mainstream audiences, a film allegedly based on ‘true events’ which saw a family terrorised in their new home by demonic forces. This tried and tested formula for story telling within the horror genre of cinema has spawned a wealth of films in the same vein over the decades, each attempting to add something to the mix. The Conjuring is the latest to take up the reins in an attempt to scare audiences.
The Conjuring (directed by James Wan) grasps so faithfully to the ‘haunted house’ concept in a way that’s almost a homage to the cult classics of the 1970s & 80’s. It follows paranormal investigators Ed & Lorraine Warren (who are based on a real life couple of the same names) & their efforts to rid a young family of the demon who maliciously haunts & attempts possession of them in their new home.
The usual ghost escapades start early on in the film and do help to intensify the expectation of big scares but there’s never any real major payoffs, James Wan shows his hand to early with the possessed doll & the film begins to rapidly descend into Scooby Doo territory from thereon in. Whilst there are some genuinely creepy moments that will have audiences hiding their faces in their hands they are somewhat diluted by the cheap scare tactics deployed throughout.
One major factor that does save the film is the acting talent of Patrick Wilson (previously worked with James Wan on Insidious) who portrays Ed Warren. We see in Ed a conflicted man who wants to help others but is terrified that in doing so he may lose his own family to the dark forces. The strong theme of family bonds running throughout does help some way to underpin the believability in the plots premise but ultimately it doesn’t go deep enough & turns it into a ‘good versus evil’ piece with no real reward.
James Wan’s previous horror film ‘Insidious’ was in my opinion a much more satisfying experience & genuinely creepy watch. Who can forget the leering red faced demon and the vintage music which accompanied him in his hellish dwellings, for me that one scene outweighs the entirety of The Conjuring.
Because The Conjuring is allegedly based on real life events it somewhat constrains the telling of the story in an effort to keep it believable, whilst Insidious is free to run rampant with ghosts, monsters & otherworldly universes. The real intended scare in The Conjuring is the thought that if this has happened in reality, it could happen to you, a thought which the movies director hopes will stay with you long after you’ve viewed it.
The Conjuring is well paced as expected from contemporary Hollywood horror and visually reminiscent of horror films of the 1970’s which brings a nice quality to the screen. However dedicated fans will have seen this film played out a hundred times before under different titles. If James Wan’s intention was to pay homage to the classics he definitely succeeded but if the intention was to create something new then The Conjuring definitely falls short amid cliched plot devices and outdated scare techniques.
Overall The Conjuring is an enjoyable film if you’re looking for a quick scares but its nothing groundbreaking and will likely fade into the plethora of other films in the same realm.
The Conjuring is showing at cinemas now.