‘The Conjuring’ Review

Published 1 year ago by , Updated August 30th, 2014 at 1:14 am,

The Conjuring Reviews starring Vera Farmiga Patrick Wilson Lili Taylor and Ron Livingston 2013 The Conjuring Review

The Conjuring transports us into the world of Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga), the famous real-life couple who for decades studied, combated and documented supernatural occurrences. Teased by the promise that this is the Warren’s most frightening case of all, The Conjuring follows the plight of the Perron family – Carolyn (Lili Taylor), her husband Roger (Ron Livingston) and their five daughters – who move into a remote farmhouse, only to discover it is inhabited by a fearsome demonic presence.

Ed and Lorraine agree to help the Perrons exorcise their home, but the case quickly proves to be more dangerous than they could’ve ever imagined. With Lorraine (a talented physic) vulnerable to the dark forces haunting the Perrons, and a ghostly adversary that’s as cunning as she is evil, the Warrens soon find that they have become the hunted, instead of the hunters.

Vera Farmiga in The Conjuring 20131 The Conjuring Review

The Conjuring comes our way courtesy of horror director James Wan (Saw, Insidious) and twin brother horror/thriller writing duo Chad and Carey Hayes (The ReapingHouse of Wax). While the script has  the usual “passable” quality of the Hayes brothers’ B-movie signature, it is Wan’s uncanny ability to create simple, creative and very effective scare sequences that elevates this movie above just about every other ghost story horror flick of the last few years. In short: this is the scariest movie of 2013 (so far).

It’s a small miracle that the movie achieves the nonstop, hair-raising tension that it does. Wan is used to making the utmost out of a micro-budget (Saw and Insidious both had budgets averaging out at about $1.3 million) and The Conjuring is the best application of his low-budget formula to date. Instead of CGI creatures and fancy visual effects used in so many other films today, The Conjuring takes things back to the ’70s/’80s era of horror movies, using simple filmmaking techniques like camera angles, keen concepts and fantastic sequencing to create a truly terrifying horror experience that is mostly free of  blood and/or gore, making its frightful nature an even more impressive achievement.

Ghost Witch in The Conjuring The Conjuring Review

Admittedly, the film is built on pretty familiar horror movie tropes – but again, it’s the way these familiar moments (bumps in the night, something lurking in the shadows or behind a door) are staged that makes them more impressive and effective than so many other films. It’s all about the craftsmanship, and James Wan, working at the top of his game, truly knows how to scare us. Practical makeup and visual effects help to sell the  scary show in a tactile and real way (a welcome respite from the barrage of CGI monsters and VFX seen in so many horror movies these days) rather than nagging the mind with the distracting notion of non-reality that often comes with digital effects work.

Aiding in the creation of a convincingly frightening world are a cast of talented performers who help sell the scares with grounded and believable performances. Wilson and Wan (who worked together on Insidious and its upcoming sequel) are comfortable enough with one another to allow Ed to be a charming enough straight-faced leading man, while Farmiga (Up In the Air, Bates Motel) once again demonstrates why she is such solid and reliable actress, making Lorraine a fascinating and very human character, despite the fantastical nature of her “powers” and the supernatural world she inhabits.

Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as Ed and Lorraine Warren in The Conjuring 2013 The Conjuring Review

Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga in ‘The Conjuring’

The same dynamic works for Roger and Carolyn Perron: Livingston (Office Space) is a sympathetic, straight-faced male protagonist, while Taylor (Hemlock Grove) uses her talents in a wide range of emoting to create the believable and well-rounded character needed to pul off the film’s climatic third act.

The child actors are also skilled at selling the idea of real fear and emotion, thanks to talented youngsters like Mackenzie Foy (Breaking Dawn), Hayley McFarland (Lie to Me), Joey King (Dark Knight Rises), Kyla Deaver and Shanley Caswell (Vegas) – who all work well together selling the chemistry and bond of tight-knit sisters. Even bit characters played by Shannon Kook (Degrassi: The Next Generation) and John Brotherton (One Life to Live) get standout moments and are likable enough to relate to, and because we actually care about all of the people involved in this battle against evil, it’s easy to be invested in each moment and sequence in which their lives (or souls) are put in danger. On a character level, there are no weak links or throwaways.

Lily Taylor and Ron Livingston in The Conjuring 2013 The Conjuring Review

Lili Taylor and Ron Livingston in ‘The Conjuring’

No film is without nitpicks, however, and the only reason The Conjuring isn’t (necessarily) worthy of five-star classic status is due to the fact that the Hayes brothers’ script – while blessedly tight and efficient at a lean 112 minutes – still manages to dangle a few threads (mostly concerning the Warrens’ personal life) that are not really necessary and distract from the main narrative. Of course, now that a Conjuring sequel has been approved, those dangling threads could conceivably be tied into future films exploring the Warrens’ long career; but in this standalone film, they feel extraneous.

One further nitpick: although this film is excellent, its simple, self-contained and anecdotal nature doesn’t necessarily give it the same ability to hang around in mind like, say, The Shining, a film whose deep levels and themes stay with you long after the credits roll. The Conjuring is a very satisfying horror movie outing, but when it’s done – beyond the trauma of a freaky moviegoing experience – there is little to ponder or reflect upon. Of course, the intention is to tell an anecdotal story – and for better or worse, the filmmakers do just that.

The Conjuring Posssession Scene The Conjuring Review

If you are a horror movie fan, go see The Conjuring. Even if you’re the type who is too tough and rugged to be scared by a movie (or if you have that “seen it all” attitude of a hardcore horror connoisseur), you’ll have to at least give it up to Wan and Co. for bringing things back to a bygone era of filmmaking and proving that progress and technological advances will never be suitable replacements for good old-fashioned creativity and know-how. That statement alone is worthy of applause by the time the credits roll – that is, if you aren’t too busy trying to calm your rattled nerves.

Check out the trailer for The Conjuring if you’re still on the fence:

517840900 3 620 439 The Conjuring Review

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The Conjuring is now in theaters. It is 112 minutes long and is Rated-R for sequences of disturbing violence and terror (translation: it’s too scary).

Our Rating:

4.5 out of 5
(Must-See)

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  1. All nitpicks aside I think years from now people will realize this is a 5 star movie. The Exorcist remains my magnum opus for exorcism movies since it was created over 40 years ago but it proved that a big budget and special effects don’t make a scary movie but the actors and performances do. Above all I thought The Possession was a refreshing film in the spirit of possession movies and Insidious had it’s moments but James Wan showed his technical abilities and brilliance by paying tribute to the classic horror movies which came before it in The Conjuring.

    The performances were subtle and effective but the frightful nature of the film leading up to the scares make people really remember their experience. The mixing is incredible and this is one of the few films which have seriously left my heart racing until the credits rolled because it leaves the viewer terrified. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel and it’s not the most complex story as you stated, but it did what it set out to and did a brilliant job at that.

    I like the review a lot more than the poorly written one star review over at Roger Ebert’s website, keep up the good work.

    • I found myself laughing at all of the references to just about every horror movie ever. Even “the Birds.”

      It was well done. Honestly, I don’t like all the silly Christian preaching and I can see why people don’t like the suggestion that any whitch trials were anything but normal people killing normal people. But over all it was pretty good, and I like that it was so low budget compared to so many movies this year. It looked great actually.

      • Thank you! My husband did the visual effects :) I’m biased of course, but thought it looked great also.

  2. I loved the conjuring a great spooky movie it hit the chill factor for me looking forward to the sequel of (insidious )

  3. Okay,

    SPOILER ALERT

    Who else thinks the ghost kid, “Rory,” got a raw deal?

    He could hardly help it if he got killed by his mother, who was possesed by the baby killing, love-of-satan declaring, suicide-as-an-act-of-spite-to-God’s-gift-of-life comminting Bethsheba. So he tries to make friends with someone and shows her the hiding places he himself had probably used back in the day (which seemed to work at the end of the movie until that guy yelled, “I found her. She’s under the kitchen).”

    So what does Rory get for his pains and labors? The toy he posseses gets thrown into a room full of the most evilist objects ever, including that bad egg Annabel.

    Not nice.

  4. Am I the only one that didn’t think this movie was that scary? The one part that actually got to me was the creepy lady on top of the dresser thing lol.

    • This movie sucked eggs big time! Any movie that would frighten any man (and a mean man! Not someone macho idiot fruit claiming to be one)would most likely be banned in the United States.

      This movie was not scary at all!

      The only films that were a little bit frightening were

      The Shinning
      Sinister
      Reanimator
      Lords of Salem
      The Exorcist

      If you found the Conjuring scary then you must have never seen a horror movie before.

      Save your money if you haven’t seen it yet.

  5. This film wasn’t scary at all. All these paranormal films are becoming white noise. Any film that’s actually scary would most likely be banned in the United States. Get yourself some balls people!

  6. 2/5

    Seems like the director borrowed from every past horror movie and mixed it all together in The Conjuring. Problem is they try everything & complete nothing other then an Exorcist / Amityville rip off.

    1. What happened to ghost boy Rory ? Was he helping ?

    2. Why’d the dude claim they couldn’t perform an exorcism & waste all that time trying to videotape the paranormal activity only to pull out this crucifix like he was superman & do the exorcism himself ?

    3. What’d his wife see during the earlier exorcism ? This was never explored or explained.

    4. What purpose did the stupid doll serve other then fill the time ?

    5. Why “The Conjuring?” Nothing was conjured. It was about a satanic witch who haunted the house.

  7. Conjuring is a better movie than most of the horror movies of today but I did not find it too scary. The acting & direction was although excellent.
    Exorcist is the movie which I think would never be surpassed ever. It was a real-classic, once in a life horror.
    Conjuring is my 3rd most favorite movie, though after exorcist, closely followed by the Omen.

  8. Excellent Movie, though not too scary.

  9. I was wondering if you ever considered changing the structure of
    your website? Its very well written; I love what youve got to say.

    But maybe you could a little more in the way of content so people
    could connect with it better. Youve got an awful lot
    of text for only having 1 or two pictures.
    Maybe you could space it out better?

  10. I just re-watched this last night (Nov 27) and I actually appreciate the movie even more now than I did when I first saw it.
    I’m not saying I didn’t like it the first time because I really did but I was able to focus more on Wan’s direction this time around and I really think this was by far his best film from a directorial standpoint. His camera work is stellar, with each shot full to the brim with detail and the various angles and movement lent itself perfectly to the genre.
    I’d really compare his work here to Kubrick’s on The Shining.
    That may sound like blasphemy to some or maybe a huge over-statement but IMO Wan is worthy of the praise.
    It’s even more of a shame to me now when I think about how Wan wants to focus on other types of films (seriously Fast and Furious???) because I feel the genre will truly miss his presence. Hopefully he will be willing to come back sooner rather than later.

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