<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by James Wan. Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Ron Livingston, Lili Taylor, John Brotherton, Joey King
The Conjuring may have you jumping out of your seat a couple of times but it is nothing more than a mix of horror genres and tricks you’ve seen in a dozen other so-called ‘scary’ movies.
Made by the same man, James Wan, who directed the first Saw film – which was infinitely more clever and gripping than The Conjuring – this film about possession and exorcism didn’t do anything for me. Not even with help from the pre-film ‘statutory warning’ (see below) slide telling viewers of how weird things happen to people who have watched the film, because it’s that scary and real!
If there’s one genre of film from Hollywood that I loath and abhor it is horror. Because time after time they serve up the same clichés (haunted houses in the middle of nowhere), the same scare tactics (creaking doors and moving furniture), the same themes (family moves in and gets possessed), the same props (dolls) and the same characters (scary little girls and stupid parents). I’ve already ranted about it all in my review for MAMA, made by the only-claim-to-fame ‘Director of Pan’s Labyrinth’ (which I loved and I think Del Toro should stick to his native language).
In The Conjuring the Perron family, Carolyn (Lili Taylor) and Roger (Ron Livingston) move into a decrepit old house in the middle of nowhere with their five, yes FIVE, daughters and dog. It’s the 1970s so the five children aren’t out of place, I guess. Why they move into a house in the middle of a forest, that’s falling apart and is away from everything isn’t really explained. But as soon as they do, strange things begin to happen. Like one of their daughters starts sleepwalking. Oh actually, she used to do that before they came to the house, so they’re just basically a weird family that continues to stay in the house after hearing strange noises, watching furniture move by itself and not thinking anything of all the clocks in the house stopping every night at 3:07 am!
Only when things get really life threatening and Carolyn is covered in more than a dozen unexplainable bruises do they decide to contact Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) and Ed (Patrick Wilson) Warren. The couple, apparently real-life paranormal investigators, decide to help out even though they’ve been adversely affected by past demonic experiences. And what follows is setting up of cameras and microphones and the necessity of an exorcism.
Oh and did I mention there’s a relatively ominous looking doll in the movie? No. That’s because I have absolutely no idea what role the doll plays in the plot. It’s not even in the Perron’s house. True story my ass! Clearly Hollywood is grasping at straws to find new material.
The Conjuring is however high on production values and doesn’t resort to unnecessary gore and blood. And instead of ditsy teenagers we have a group of fairly good actors. Also, I actually found the film more funny than scary. There are some witty one-liners in there.
Actors Ron Livingston and Lily Taylor (looking far older than him) are mismatched. Joey King (White House Down) who plays one of the daughters gives a good performance. Vera (also looking older) and Patrick are suitably solemn but there’s no chemistry at all between them.
The scary woman with hair on her face from MAMA and a half a dozen other ‘horror’ films makes an appearance. And so does the tree with a woman hanging from a noose, which featured in the film Sinister. Ho-hum.
Why, why can’t they think of newer elements for a horror movie? Why the same house, the same little girls, the same possessed dolls or possessed people and exorcisms? The creaking doors, the silence followed by a huge bang, the same sound effects, the old hag with hair over her face all mangled and contorted again and again and again… I’m sick of it I tell you.
If you haven’t watched too many scary, horror films then you’ll get your scares from The Conjuring and it’s decently made so you won’t regret it. But if you’re a fan of scary movies and have seen your fair share then I don’t see how you can get startled at the same clichés you’ve seen in 50 other films that haven’t bothered to deviate from the tried and tested.
Give us the same old thing, but at least thrill us with the same panache and vigour like they did in The Amityville Horror, The Exorcist or The Omen. Real life is far scarier nowadays so think out of the box, or rather, out of the haunted house!