Riding high on the success of Insidious, director James Wan apparently decided that working on Insidious: Chapter 2 wasn’t enough; he had to put out another film out beforehand. The Conjuring sees him reuniting with Patrick Wilson in another haunted house movie, this time with added exorcisms.
Based on the real life investigations of demonologists Ed (Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) (who also looked into the Amityville case), it sees them investigating the goings on in a house in Rhode Island in 1971. Roger (Ron Livingston) and Carolyn Perron (Lili Taylor) have moved into the spooky old farmhouse together with their five daughters, and have been suffering from a horrendous case of the hauntings ever since then. It becomes clear pretty quickly that there is something demonic haunting them, and that this is the worst case the Warrens have ever investigated.
First of all, The Conjuring is remarkably similar to Insidious. In fact, it almost could have been shoe-horned into a sequel/prequel of that very film. As a consequence, the dramatic beats, tone and look of the film are quite similar to Wan’s 2010 horror. With a $20 million budget, it’s clear that Wan has a lot more money to splash around than the shoestring production that was Insidious, and it shows. There are a number of sequences featuring slick camera moves perfect framing. Thankfully, the film hasn’t become cluttered with blatant CGI effects – Wan knows full well that scary stuff needs to be tactile.
The crowd in my cinema lapped this film up. There are a number of great scares, and the film never gets too silly – something that Insidious has a problem with, particularly in the final act. That being said, however, this isn’t as strong a film. It’s rather predictable and never truly shocks. Wilson and Farmiga acquit themselves with aplomb, whilst Taylor reminds us why she should get more high profile roles. Livingston does a good job but doesn’t really get a chance to cut loose. This is, however, a major change from the comedic roles I usually associate him with.
The Conjuring is definitely well-crafted, impressive horror film. It just failed to stand out in any particular way for me. It gets most things right – pacing, editing, cinematography – but also fails in other areas, particularly when it comes to the female characters, who all appear to be victims. It’s not one of the dozens of horror stupid films that come out every year, but it’s still found wanting.Rating: