James Wan first hit the mainstream in 2004 with the groundbreaking hit SAW. (Regardless of what you think of the sequels, there’s no denying that the first film of the franchise was a game changer.) He then went on to direct the delightfully underrated Dead Silence, the fantastically brutal Death Sentence, and one of the best horror films in years, Insidious. So between Wan’s history and the buzz created from the test screenings, I was pretty excited for the release of The Conjuring. Admittedly, as with most genre films, I still had a bit of trepidation. We’ve all been burnt too many times by the next big horror movie that ends up letting us down. But we can’t let that stop us from enjoying our favorite genre and, hey, James Wan hasn’t let us down yet…
The streak continues!
The Conjuring is a creepy throwback to the classic haunted house films of yesteryear. With elements from all decades of horror, it’s like The Changeling had a gang-bang with Poltergeist and Insidious. Even The Exorcist was in the corner touching itself while watching the other three having all the fun and waiting for the right time to jump in on the action. Then there’s The Amityville Horror watching the show from a tree branch outside the window. And there are plenty of homages to all of those films.
The Conjuring is based on real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren and one of their actual cases from 1973, when a family moved into a new house and quickly became victims of a demonic entity. Sound familiar? It should. There’s nothing new here, but it’s executed as well as it ever has been. The film is paced very well with brilliant acting. The first two acts have that old-school slow-burn kind of feel, but you can tell it’s ramping up for the third and final act. Just like in his other movies — especially Insidious — Wan uses excellent audio and foley work to control the mood and tension. And he has mastered the “jump scare,” taking the often-predictable “fake scare” and turning it against you, which is very refreshing.
Now, I know that we all love our “scary” movies. (Why else would you be reading this?) But the word “scary” is thrown around carelessly. If you ask me, The Conjuring is the first legitimate SCARY movie in years. Even though it takes a lot to make me jump during a movie, I’ll admit I did it a few times, and I could tell everyone in the theater was having a lot of fun jumping, hiding their eyes, and watching with nervous laughter. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a crowd leave a movie a little freaked out, with rattled nerves, maybe afraid to go to sleep that night.
As horror fans, there are so many movies that we let ourselves get excited for. Then we see the movie… And maybe it was decent or maybe it was a bit over-hyped. But we move on and forget about it, because it just wasn’t that memorable. (Remember the Evil Dead remake? Yeah, me neither.)
The Conjuring is one we’ll remember.
Will you be going to see The Conjuring?