The Conjuring


I think James Wan is the most interesting director in horror today. He’s not the most original director (i.e. most of his films are still of the haunted house variety, although he did kick-start the “torture-porn” genre with Saw) but he brings a feeling of freshness to a tired genre. One of my favourite movie-going experiences of the past couple of years was seeing Wan’s Insidious, which was a twisted carnival ride of monsters and scares. Unlike most horror films, it didn’t take the subject matter too seriously, making a horror film that was frightening, but also fun.

The Conjuring mostly foregoes the tongue-in-cheek elements of Insidious for an exercise in straight horror. The stock elements of the haunted-house genre are checked off (new family buys old, isolated home in an auction; old home starts making weird noises; kids see scary creatures; family looks to paranormal investigators to quash the supernatural specters tormenting said family). The skeletal plots of horror films simply exist as a clothesline to hang scares off of (and speaking of which – there is a spooky scene involving a clothesline). And that’s where Wan is so effective – rehashing tired plots with fresh scares.

The scariest part of the film is a children’s game (I have my suspicions that it was invented by the filmmakers for cinematic reasons) called “Hide and Clap.” It’s like Hide and Seek, except the seeker is blindfolded and asks the hiders to clap to figure out where they are. Obviously, this being a horror film, claps will be heard in places where there is no one at all. How it’s done in the film is terrifying.

There’s also other terrifying set pieces – like the first night the family starts to realize something is terribly wrong with the house and the scares keep piling up one after the other until fear is suffocating, a grisly exorcism scene, and a creepy doll that plays a minor role in the film but leaves a lasting impression.

What’s great about this film is that you can sense, from every frame, that Wan loves the horror genre. That passion translates so well on the screen, whether it’s Wan debunking what must be his two pet peeves of old haunted house films (one: why does the husband never believe the wife? and two: why doesn’t the family just leave the house?) or slowly developing dread by showing characters react to something without granting the audience a glimpse.

The Conjuring takes a more serious tone than Wan’s previous horror film Insidious, but it firmly establishes the director as a master of scares and one of the most assured voices in horror today.

Grade: A


One Response to The Conjuring

  1. CMrok93 says:

    Nice review. Even though I wouldn’t consider it terribly scary, I would still say it’s a bunch of fun, especially if the horror genre is one of, if not your favorites.

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