Film Review: The Conjuring
The Conjuring is the latest horror film from Melbourne-born and educated film-maker James Wan. Wan began his career in cinema with his budget horror film Saw (2004) which lead to the creation of one of the most financially successful horror franchises of all time. Since Saw, Wan has moved himself slightly apart from gore and the alleged “torture porn” genre he helped to create. His films are often focused on supernatural or demonic beings and his latest film, based on the cases of Ed and Lorraine Warren is no exception.
Wan has a penchant for Dolls; who could forget the terrifying Billy the puppet from Saw. It is an old motif of the horror genre and the conjuring much like Wan’s earlier film Dead Silence uses it with a great skill and style. The conjuring begins with an early case of demonic haunting investigated by the Warrens. This paranormal investigative couple go around to schools and other such venues to share their stories of encounters with the unexplained. They are tracked down by the Perron family, whose new home is being terrorized by an unknown and angry force. The story of the film falls close to that of other such films of the subgenre such as Amityville horror and the last exorcism, it is in many ways, a mix of the two.
Wan’s love for this kind of film is extremely evident in the movies almost cliché story arc and characters, as well as its lovely use of dramatic, minimalistic opening credits, reminiscent of so many similar movies from the 1970s and 80s. However, so many directors of late have entered into the paranormal or demonic possessions subgenre with varying degrees of success. It is an area that is brilliant when done well (The Exorcist is still one of the greatest horror films of all time) and disastrous when attempted by a lesser film maker (you ever see those Paranormal Activity movies?). Thankfully Wan is a very talented film-maker, one whose education in film making is evident in his directorial style. His use of the camera is persistently inventive in the way it moves with or above characters as if possessed itself; whilst at times it also seems to hark back to the classic films that it owes its style to.
The suspense that is created in this film is to be admired due to the often lack of pay off or even onscreen scare, although the film does have its share of on screen horrors. The successful creation of suspense in a film is one of the most difficult things to do and so because of this, The Conjuring is in many ways a very successful horror movie because it provokes a physical, visceral reaction from its audience.
However, despite all of this, the film’s final act seems to leave the film feeling very unbalanced. This is something we can see throughout almost of all of Wan’s films and it is always a bit of a downer. The film’s third act is not necessarily bad, however it feels as if it is a part of some other movie and does not really deliver on the suspense that the first two acts work so hard to create and sustain.
The Conjuring is one of very few horror films to be released in the June – July movie season, a season normally reserved for the summer blockbusters (American summer). Surprisingly, the film is holding its own and it is not hard to see why, few action films can provide suspense and thrills like this little horror gem. Despite its few short comings and minor structural errors, The Conjuring is a really fun horror movie to watch and should please anyone keen for a night at the movies filled with scares, jumps and screams from the audience.