Film Review: The Conjuring

When the Perron family move into a New England farmhouse and are harassed by malevolent spirits, they call in renowned paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson & Vera Farmiga) to rid the house of the spirits. However, this is a case unlike any the Warrens have experienced before.

The Conjuring is based in the ‘true’ case files of Ed and Lorraine Warrens (probably most famous for their work on the Amityville case), which will no doubt set off alarm bells with a lot of people, as will the fact that we have yet another haunted house tale – is there anything here to set the film apart from those we’ve seen before?

Well, yes and no.

There is very little new in The Conjuring that we haven’t seen in countless other horror films. It ticks just about every horror film box which does unfortunately drag the film into cliche a little too often and make the whole thing somewhat predictable. Isolated farm house? Check. Nervous dog? Check. Spooky boarded up basement? Check. Creepy kids’ toys? Check. I could go on for quite a while.

Having said that, even though the film does tread familiar ground, it does so very effectively. Director James Wan (Saw, Insidious) knows how to pace a horror film and doesn’t miss a beat throughout. Whether it’s a fleeting face in a mirror, a creaking door or sleepwalking child, Wan executes it with aplomb and delivers on the scare front more often than not. And it’s in these slower, more subtle moments that the film is at its most effective, with Wan’s use of long takes, dolly zooms and disorientating camera angles really intensifying the atmosphere.

We don’t always see what the characters see, allowing our own imagination to fill in the blanks. As such, when the film does show its hand, often resorting to standard jump scare tactics, it feels a little cheap.  Everything then gets ramped up in the final third, as you’d expect, and this does reduce much of the impact, although as this is based on ‘actual events’ it’s difficult to see how it could have been much different.

A lot of credit must also go to the cast. Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor do well as the Perrons but it’s Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga who are the stand outs here. They are wholly believable as the famed demonologists, with Farmiga in particular excellently portraying Lorraine Warren as a caring but slightly damaged individual, although with the actual Lorraine Warren helping out with the story it’s hardly surprising the pair are sympathetically portrayed when others would argue they perhaps shouldn’t be.

For diehard horror aficionados, The Conjuring probably won’t offer up anything you haven’t seen umpteen times before and it may seem rather too ‘by numbers’. However, for the casual horror fan there’s enough here to have you gripping the edge of your seat whether you believe it’s a true story or not.

3 and a half pigeons

3.5/5 pigeons

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45 thoughts on “Film Review: The Conjuring

  1. CMrok93 says:

    Good review man. Like I said in my review, it wasn’t the scariest thing known to humanity, but it was still fun and tense for what it was. And that was enough for me.

  2. Natasha Harmer says:

    great review 🙂
    I was really impressed, and while I agree it’s very similar to lots of other films out there (I’m a big horror watcher) it stood out as one of the better ones of this genre.
    The whole true story thing didn’t bother me too much because Lorraine Warren was a consultant on the film, I’d read an interview with her and she was really impressed with the way the film told the story, and that can only be a good thing!
    Definitely agree with you on the cast, Patrick Wilson and Vera Framiga were the stand outs for sure 😀

    • Thanks! Just plucked this out of my spam folder!

      I agree that it was very effectively done even if I did feel like I’d seen it all before. I would have just liked a little more creativity, but it was still a fun time. The true story thing didn’t bother me, I just felt it was a very sympathetic portrayal of the Warrens, which some might argue with, but I was fine with it really.

  3. theipc says:

    I had hoped to go see this in the theaters but missed out. I’ll definitely give it a whirl when it comes out VOD – nice work!

  4. Excellent. The trailer for this looked really good, will try to catch it.

  5. filmhipster says:

    You seem to be the only one not _ all over this film (you can fill in the blank).
    And I trust your judgement so i won’t get my hopes up too much. 🙂

  6. ruth says:

    I’m not into horror but all these reviews have gotten me quite curious about this one. I can see how all the ‘scary movie elements’ could make ’em somewhat cliched, but sounds like Wan still did a fine job that’d create endless nightmares for me if I watch it, ahah.

    • I’m not that into horror either Ruth, to be honest but it was a decent watch and Wan did do a great job. The film looked great and was pretty inventive in its camera angles but it was a little too by the book for me. It would have been nice if it did do the same old thing scare wise that we haven’t seen over and over again.

      • ruth says:

        Speaking of inventive ‘horror’ that’s scarier than any fiction Hollywood puts up, I just posted my review of The Act of Killing & interview w/ the director, hope you check it out.

      • I read your review earlier (and very good it was too!) but I haven’t listened to the interview yet, but I will do that very soon and leave you my thoughts!

  7. caragale says:

    I agree that the film doesn’t really try to bring anything new to the table, but it does the old tricks so well that I couldn’t help but love it. And, yes, Vera Farmiga is fantastic. Overall, I thought the acting/character development was way better than the average horror film. Nice review!

  8. sati says:

    Great that you liked Vera, I thought she was fabulous in the movie. I actually found it to be quite unique, mostly because of the ending which so uncharacteristically for modern horror movie didn’t have something horrible happening and the final, stupid jump scare.

    • You’re right about the ending and I did really like that. There was so much tension in the cinema at the last shot and then it ended, which I was very glad about. And Vera was great, she was the standout for me, definitely.

  9. Great review, Chris. Looking forward to seeing this, even though I’m not a horror buff.

  10. keith7198 says:

    Good stuff! I was a fan of it and you and I share a lot of the same thoughts. Wilson and Farmiga are splendid!

  11. Gene says:

    Not a horror fan myself but a lot of what I’ve read says this is one of the scariest that people have seen in a while. Would you go that far? Nice review.

    • Thanks Gene. I’m not much of a horror fan either and so I haven’t seen many of the recent horror films so I can’t really comment on that to be honest! Many people have said that though and it did scare me at times, it gets really tense.

  12. 70srichard says:

    Solid. I liked it a bit more than you but our views are very close on this one. A nice point about some of the angles in the shots, they worked well.

  13. Tyson Carter says:

    Nice write up buddy. Seeing this soon I hope, and cant wait. Wan is a genius 🙂

  14. davecrewe says:

    I really enjoyed this, but I definitely agree that it’s a long way from being original! That said, Insidious was pretty original, and not as good (mostly thanks to that very silly third act), so originality isn’t everything! The quality of this just makes me disappointed that Wan’s giving up on horror 😦 (for … a Fast and the Furious film)

    • I think that soon there will be nothing but Fast and the Furious films. That will be all that exists. But you’re right, originality isn’t everything. I’d have just liked some of the scares to be a little more inventive, that’s all.

      • davecrewe says:

        I’d agree with that, for sure – I loved the atmosphere and cinematography of the film, but none of the scares connected with me either. The rest of it was great, though.

  15. Aw man, only 3.5? LOL. I think you’re a little too harsh on it for the “been there done that” factor 😦 This movie was SO well put together and acted. Awesome horror movie…

    • Ya know, I was *this* close (puts fingers very close together) to giving it a 4 and I do feel slightly harsh for only giving it a 3.5 but when I was watching it I just found myself chuckling slightly as I ticked off all the cliches in my head. Still a good film though, I did enjoy it.

  16. Zoë says:

    Lovely review. I am really looking forward to checking this out soon.

  17. Monkeyboy says:

    I wasn’t overly impressed with this one. It didn’t scare me at all, and got a bit silly towards the end. The only bit that really sent a chill down my spine was probably one of the simplest scenes, the “hide and clap” game with the mother and her daughter.

  18. table9mutant says:

    Great review. Sorry – think I missed this & now trying to catch up on two weeks or so of blog reading. Not surprisingly, totally feel the same way about this one. 🙂

    • Thanks! 🙂 It can be so daunting trying to catch up. If I miss too much then I just pick up from that point on normally. But yeah, think I remember commenting on your review of this and we do seem to share the same view (again) 🙂

  19. Dan says:

    Wan’s definitely talented. But he’s a bit hit and miss (Death Sentence was one of the worst films I’ve ever seen, Saw was one of the best). He has an uncanny knack of being hit and miss in a single movie too – Insidious was a “hit” for the first hour before tailing off in the finale.

  20. Not seen Death Sentence or Insidious but I really liked Saw, thought that was brilliant. And now he’s off to do Fast and the Furious 7. Should be interesting!

  21. Nice review. I was a fan of The Conjuring, it had a great eerie tone which I loved.

    I wasn’t a fan of the last act though.

    “with Farmiga in particular excellently portraying Lorraine Warren as a caring but slightly damaged individual, although with the actual Lorraine Warren helping out with the story it’s hardly surprising the pair are sympathetically portrayed when others would argue they perhaps shouldn’t be.”

    Excellent point, I completely agree.

    • Thanks! It did have a great tone, I know exactly what you mean and I agree totally. And I do agree about the last act, too. It seemed to just run away with itself a little and lost a lot of that tone.
      Glad you agree on that point, I did get the feeling that it glorified the Warrens a little when so many people have debunked their claims and think they do more harm than good.

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