The American movie going public loves a good paranormal scare. Movies such as Insidious, Evil Dead and The Devil Inside sent chills down viewer’s spines while also taking the money out of their pockets to become respectable hits. For the most part these movies were released in the “Dead Zone” of the movie release calendar where the competition is light, which allowed these horror hits to capitalize at the box office. This week James Wan (director of Saw and Insidious) will attempt to take on the big boys and see if the dark forces in The Conjuring can bring in the bodies for some frightful fare in the heart of the summer blockbuster season.
Based on actual events, The Conjuring is set in 1971 with the Perron family being haunted by a dark force that has latched onto them in their Rhode Island farmhouse. In an act of desperation the Perron family reaches out to Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga). The Warrens are two real life Ghostbusters who attempt to rid the Perron’s home, mind and bodies of the evil presence that wants them DOA. With Ed’s paranormal paraphernalia and Lorraine’s clairvoyant abilities, the duo try to ward off the vengeful spirits that haunt the family.
One thing that is great in The Conjuring is getting to see the throwback style of paranormal research since the film is set in 1971. No fancy cameras or night vision goggles. Ed has a microphone, some bulb flashing cameras tied to trip wires and an old school sweater to battle the demons. It also helps that his wife has visions that provide Ed with a cheat sheet for their jobs that mostly end up being pipes rattling. I liked the idea of two experts fighting ghosts with their knowledge and artifacts rather than proton packs. It was a nice change-up for telling this ghost story.
The Conjuring has a cool retro feel, but unfortunately it can’t decide what kind of movie it wants to be. I feel The Conjuring wanted to be something special like Poltergeist, but unfortunately relied too much on cheap thrills. Note to filmmakers everywhere. We live in a crazy world where doors slamming and clapping noises don’t frighten the audience like they used to. You’ve even seen the once mighty Paranormal Activity franchise slow down at the box office by overusing these antics. The first 40 minutes felt like a continuous pattern of door slams and clapping sounds. Also I was surprised by the R rating. The gore is at a minimum and The Conjuring really wasn’t scary. I think James Wan should have gone back to his Saw gory days and taken advantage of that R rating.
The Conjuring wasn’t a bad watch, I just felt it was missing something that would set it apart from the rest of the possession movies that have been in theaters the last three years. The creators tried to cram so much story and background into 111 minutes that it made all the characters and plot feel a little weak. When they showed the Warren’s trophy room which is basically full of cursed or haunted items, I wanted to know all the stories behind them. That was one of the most interesting parts of The Conjuring, but the Warren’s version of the Ghostbusters containment unit is all but ignored. The Conjuring would have worked better as a television series where we could see multiple stories told over a full season. It would have been much better than dealing with the bland Perron family for a whole movie. Overall, I give The Conjuring 2.5 out of 4 potatoes.
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