The Conjuring claims to be based on a true story about one of the Warrens’ paranormal investigations. At this point, that fact doesn’t quite matter, especially when this is mostly designed as a horror movie. And as a horror movie, its job is to offer real terror and take any ghostly elements seriously. The film isn’t actually trying to give newer scares. This is old school stuff, but good old school horror movie stuff. This is the kind that gets to do more than pull off another jump scare trick. Another benefit the movie got is its director, James Wan, who delivers a crafty storytelling. The Conjuring is not terribly innovative, but I don’t think it needed to. It’s the execution that keeps everything so gripping, and I think we needed that in this suffering era of the genre.
The story is actually more than the haunting of the Perrons. The first act juxtaposed between their situation and the life of the Warrens. The Warrens side is a fascinating little exposition of their daily life and job, while the Perrons are introduced like any typical horror film that has a haunted house and family in it, the danger is slow burn until they get to realize they needed help. What makes this somewhat different from those clichés is we are also supposed to root and care for the investigators, like we do not want them to be harm by the spirits as well. For that, the tension becomes much effective.
Even at the less scary scenes, the film is also interesting. And yes, all the characters are worth rooting for. The major ones get their own stories told at the beginning and some flashbacks in the middle of the mystery. The performances are pretty enjoyable as they take the viewers into the characters’ mind. Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson are excellent at exploring their roles and whatever they do are totally intriguing. Lili Taylor is engaging enough for shifting her character’s innocence to something terrifying.
Most of the credit goes to director James Wan who makes it all compelling. We already accepted that jump scares are inevitable to our modern horror movies, but the better scares go when it shows its campiness, like the creepy update of the Annabelle doll, and some demonic masks and makeup. They are unlike to today’s tricks that depend on gore and repetitive noise. There is also genuine terror can be felt in the quiet scenes. The finale is kind of ridiculous, but it’s filled with energetic action which makes the ride even much fun. Apart from the scary stuff, the film continues to employ its style that serves a lot of magnificent shots. This could be one of the best looking movies I’ve seen this year. The music score brings sorts of good chills.
The Conjuring is no groundbreaker, but the film is best at recapturing the classic horror. Extra merit is fleshing out and adding depth to the story which made the ghost hunting investigation more thrilling. The craft is amazing and the performances are terrific. I think it has most of the things that lack in our horror films today; curiously setting the pieces together, relateable characters, good creeps, and full insanity. The Conjuring isn’t meant to change the game, but because of the filmmakers’ ambition and love for the genre, it is a marvelous experience.