[BD Review] ‘The Conjuring’ Will Rattle You To Your Core!

When I was eight years old I was traumatized by Tobe Hooper and Steven Spielberg’s Poltergeist. The movie shook me so hard that my parents had to get me a bed that touched the floor; it was the only way to keep the clown from getting me. At the age of 33, I would do just about anything to relive that experience. As you get older, you become desensitized and cynical. It becomes increasingly difficult to be shocked, scared or impressed; you realize that you’ve seen pretty much everything before. This is the inherent problem with James Wan’s The Conjuring that must be ignored. The Conjuring is a film that doesn’t really deliver anything new, per se, but should be recognized as one of the best haunters since Poltergeist (joining the ranks of The Ring and Paranormal Activity).

In the first act of The Conjuring, one of the children has her leg pulled as she sleeps. Panicking, she looks under the bed in a solid homage to Poltergeist. The camera twists and turns upright as she stares in horror at a black shadow behind her door. This moment, which I’ve glazed over, is the high note of the film. This is the scene that will have the hair on your arms standing straight up, and your brain screaming in excitement, “Holy crap, is this movie really going to be THIS good?” This is also when I realized that, for a brief moment, James Wan had reconnected me with my youth and rattled me. It’s a core-shaking sequence that’s so viciously terrifying, yet you barely see anything. It’s a master artist painting the most wonderful picture.

While it never quite gets that good again, there’s a roller coaster of set piece scares that keep this slow burn flowing. Its editing is genius, introducing devices and then splashing the scare at a later, unexpected moment. You could hear the audience’s uncomfortable chattering in anticipation of the forthcoming jolt; the suspense clearly had the audience holding their breath, with a massive exhale after each scare. While it’s similar to most haunters, from the shot selection up to the framing of scares, it just does everything better.

But I digress; it’s time to dial it back a bit. (Minor spoliers.) As good as The Conjuring is, there are some (very minor) problems, most of which stems from the film’s length. It’s just a bit too long, and even pushes the finale too far with a melodramatic epilogue. And speaking of the finale, it feels like it’s missing a beat, and there’s a nagging lack of resolution. This is not to say Conjuring ends on a “to be continued” kind of note, but there were a few character beats that never come full circle. It agitated me just enough to feel moderately underwhelmed when the credits rolled. (End spoilers.)

Reflecting back, I think ending a “ghost” film is inherently problematic, which is where Conjuring falters. Once shit hits the fan, it becomes increasingly more difficult to be “scary” and forces the director to utilize sound design and jolts to garner a reaction. Thankfully, the film is in the hands of a horror master who delivers more than a handful of mind blowing surprises that are cause for repeat viewing. As both Insidious Chapter 2 and The Conjuring appear to be James Wan’s farewell to the horror genre, audiences will celebrate Conjuring as his most impressive work, cementing his legacy as one of the greatest horror directors of our time.

 

Official Score

  • WalkWithMeInDarkness

    SO excited, but I have to say I hope you’re wrong about James Wan saying farewell to horror with this film and Insidious 2. Hopefully he’ll come back and do horror again after he does a few different kind of films.

  • rg_lovecraft

    I’ll go see it, but this is my exact problem with James Wan, he never knows how to end a film. I’ll keep an open mind until I see it myself, but if this was his last horror film I can’t say I’d be disappointed.

  • Evan3

    That doesn’t say a lot about horror directors of this decade if James Wan is one of the best. Insidious was just ok at best…

    • doomas10

      Insidious has fantastic direction and brilliant sound design but the finale felt a bit anti-climactic

      • Evan3

        @doomas10,

        Yes, I will conceed that it was well-directed, but the film really flatlined by the end and the scares were minimal at best.

        • doomas10

          Till the third act, the scares were awesome. But the moment the astral projection thing start and then we get a glimpse of the monsters running in the ceilings….this is where I was disappointed.

          • feck

            i completely agree – the first half of Insidious is right up there with the best scary movies of all time, when the astral thing kicked in, it began to lose some luster. All in all though, its still one of my Top 10 faves.

  • doomas10

    sounds like Insidious! this film was so great in the 2/3s – it scared the shit out of me! but during the climax it became a bit meh. I am sure the conjuring will have out of this world jump scares but towards the final, we will be a bit dazzed

  • feck

    Saw it last night. My expectation were sky high, due to the overwhelmingly positive reveiws, so I was perhaps a tiny bit disappointed. But.. Yes, I really liked this movie. Did not LOVE it, but it is certainly good and as stated above, one of the best “haunted house” movies in decades. It is a smidge too long. I loved the music, and the sound. Insidious also had great music. I like the quiet creepy stuff more than the loud in your face stuff, so I did not like the second half as much. But my girlfriend was scared shitless the whole time, and she said she saw a woman leave in the middle crying. The average Joe will find this movie horrifying, but probably will not scare (too much) your average scary movie fan (like you and me). This is a must see film – for horror geeks like us.

  • CTHL

    Insidious was only good for the 1 minute prologue, then things went to pure crap. There was nothing redeeming about the movie after the title card. Darth Maul Jr. provided some MST3K factor, but thats about the extent of it.

    This movie was a bit better, but that’s not really saying much. Its only better by default, as its one of the most generic horror movies I can think of. Seen any major studio haunting/exorcism movie in the past 30 years? Then you’ve seen this. Absolutely nothing new to be seen here (I take that back… the final shot of the movie, who saw THAT coming? :-P Dare to be different.)

    What I really don’t get all the “scary” comments going about… we took a 10 year old sheltered Christian child to the movie with us (a friend of my kid) and I was assured he’d have nightmares forever and his parents would be pissed at me (well, they still might)… but no, his first comment coming out of the theater was “eh, The Hobbit was scarier”. I couldn’t have said it better myself, kid.

    • CTHL

      Though I must say, I was intrigued by the haunted samurai armor… lol. Where was that story? Surely it was better.