Let me start by saying it was a real treat to watch a 2013 film that wasn’t a remake or a sequel. It’s always exciting to watch something completely original. The Conjuring is about the very large Perron family. Carolyn and Roger move into a new house with their brood of children and everything seems perfect. Much like many other paranormal films, weird things begin happening in the house and some of the kids experience odd occurrences. This movie also centers around Lorraine and Ed Warren, a husband and wife paranormal team who investigate happenings, including the situation transpiring at the Perron house.
I heard a lot of great things about this film before I saw it and maybe it was those preconceptions that led to my disappointment, but I didn’t think this film quite lived up to the hype. Don’t misunderstand me, this is a solid horror film. At its very core, it is a solid film in any genre, which is a great foundation to build from. The acting is top-notch, as it features Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Lili Taylor and Ron Livingston, who are all great. The two parallel stories are well-developed and intriguing. Carolyn and Roger are dealing with a creepy, haunted situation and protecting their family from it. Their anxiety and desperation to find answers jumps off the screen and keeps this demon tale believable. Ed and Lorraine are experts in the paranormal field, but a recent investigation went awry, leaving Lorraine a little worse for the wear. Their struggle with wanting to help Roger and Carolyn and also wanting to protecting themselves and their daughter is also very clear to the audience. I had no trouble following these characters and believing in their actions. I sympathized with them and wished for their success.
Maybe we wouldn’t need to save horror if all films in the genre started with as solid of a foundation as this film, but that’s not the case. Some horror (most?) skip the foundation and jump straight to the scare. We’re left with a shitty film that was scary. The Conjuring is a really good film that isn’t very scary, which is not the ideal either. Truly great horror films, those that are saving horror, are both solid and scary. This movie seems to front load the suspense into the first hour and drop it for the rest, leaving the viewer in a bit of a lurch. It just felt as though the movie missed a few steps in the scare department. The scariest aspects, like the game of hide and clap the family plays, were far too short and exploited way too little. I wanted more from the scary scenes, a better balance between great film and scary film.
To be honest, demon/exorcism films aren’t really my thing. I do recognize a good film when I see it, though, and this movie was good. It just wasn’t the scariest demon I’ve seen around the block. The Conjuring is a few more scares and a bit more suspense from being a great film. However, it is one of the few original horror films of 2013, which is pretty freaking scary.
If you liked The Conjuring, you might also like The Exorcist, Paranormal Activity and The Evil Dead.