The Conjuring (2013) | Movie Review

The Conjuring (2013) Vera Farmiga

Release date: July 19, 2013
Runtime: 1 hr. 52 min.
MPAA rating: R

I've been a fan of horror movies for years and because of that I have seen a lot of them. Seeing a lot of something, of course, comes with a price: I started noticing similarities between the films, picking up on development structures, expecting plot twists and generally paying more attention to how things are done instead of just enjoying the story or getting reasonably spooked. It doesn't help that a lot of horror films seem to follow the same buildup formula and resort to jump scares. Most of all, however, I get bothered by characters doing things, that are very obviously a bad idea: explore creepy places in the  middle of the night, open doors without looking, invite strangers into their homes - you get what I mean. When I saw the previews for The Conjuring , I tried not to get my hopes up: though it looked interesting, I was dreading it turning into another cliche horror flick, as so many interesting-looking previews sadly turn out to be very average films.

So, repeating the "please be a good one" mantra over and over in my mind, off to the theatre I went. And it wasn't a good one - it was a great one. The Conjuring  has got it all: great story, great acting, great cinematography - James Wan really brought it all together. I guess I shouldn't have doubted the creator of Saw .

At the beginning of the film, we get introduced to Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) Warren: a husband and wife team of paranormal investigators, who not only solve supernatural mysteries, but also share their knowledge with the public. We also meet Roger (Ron Livingston) and Carolyn (Lili Taylor) Perron, who are moving in to a newly bought old house with their five daughters. It doesn't take long for strange things to start happening in the house and eventually Carolyn decides to seek help from the Warrens. The characters are faced with dark forces, that won't give up easily.

One of the main things that made The Conjuring work for me was that I found the characters very relatable. I didn't just observe the story - I cared about what happens to these people, the Perron family and the Warrens alike. A lot of the credit, obviously, goes to writing, but it also had to do with the actors really bringing those characters to life. For example, the Warrens aren't just your generic ghost hunters: they have personal issues, family concerns, doubts, strengths, weaknesses - things one would expect from well-written characters, that don't come along too often in the horror genre these days.

I also loved the atmosphere of the film. There was a very strong sense of a specific time and place in every scene. It really felt like watching a classic in the best traditions of Poltergeist or The Exorcist. Yes, there was a jump scare or two and some questionable basement exploring, but those were part of the story rather than ridiculous behavior and there was so much more to the tension. There isn't really any shock-value gore or over-the-top violence - The Conjuring  is, plain and simple, disturbing and scary. 

I think this movie is an obvious must-see for the fans of the genre, but also a very deserving example of filmmaking in the general sense. Basically, if you think you can handle the subject, you should see it. Just beware that The Conjuring might stay with you for a night or two, if you're impressionable like I am. I considered sleeping with the lights the night after I saw it (and I went to an afternoon showing).

So tell me, do you watch horror films? What are some of your favorites? Is there a particular kind of horror films that you refuse to watch because the subject bothers you too much?