Starring: Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Ron Livingston
Director: James Wan
Running Time: 112 mins
The Conjuring is an American film about a couple working as paranormal investigators who take up a case to help a family being terrorised by evil spirits in their new home.
I’ve heard some really good things about The Conjuring, and amidst the often depressingly repetitive genre that is modern mainstream horror, I’m always looking for something to change my mind about the genre.
Unfortunately, despite the widespread acclaim, The Conjuring is just another generic horror movie in my book. It may impress with strong, energetic performances and often dynamic cinematography, but with a one-dimensional plot and a lack of palpable atmosphere or tension, there’s nothing that really sets this film apart from the crowd of predictable supernatural horrors out there.
Now, I will say first off that my opinions on supernatural horror movies don’t seem to fit in with the general trend. If you’re a fan of the genre, or are curious about The Conjuring, then go ahead and watch it, but for me, this is just another example of the seemingly eternal weakness of supernatural horror, relying far too heavily on preposterous and unrelatable drama, the odd jumpscare and a painfully predictable narrative arc.
For me, the main objective of a horror movie, other than scaring you, should be to create a powerful, inescapable atmosphere of tension and fear, and even if it doesn’t have you jumping behind the sofa throughout, some palpable eeriness or suspense is more than enough to make for an exciting watch.
However, The Conjuring doesn’t have anything like that, ruining its few opportunities for mind-bending horror and unsettling drama with a frustratingly simplistic and direct approach to the genre. For me, the best horror movies are the ones that leave the scariest and most disturbing details up to your own imagination – after all, there’s nothing more frightening than what your own mind can come up with.
Unfortunately, rather than taking that bolder approach, The Conjuring spoonfeeds you with a simplistic horror plot that, following the predictable arc of spirits terrorising a family leading to a desperate attempt to purge them from the house, offers nothing of intrigue or genuine excitement. It’s one-dimensional, it’s predictable and it’s certainly not scary.
So, as far as great horror stories go, The Conjuring is infuriatingly average, and that’s something which is even more irritating with the clear potential and talent on display through the whole movie, particularly in the form of the often striking visuals and cinematography.
Fortunately, although its screenplay is as generic as can be, The Conjuring is a little more unique with its visuals, rejecting the dull, grim colour palette of so many modern horrors in favour of something a little brighter, bringing the action a little closer to home as it seems to unfold in an everyday scenario that anybody could end up facing.
Couple that with dynamic camerawork that does occasionally bring a certain urgency and fear factor to the action, and you have a film that, for what it lacks in good writing, it occasionally makes up for in cinematic spectacle.
And finally, while the story also fails to introduce any real character intrigue or excitement, the performances aren’t half-bad. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga are refreshingly level-headed in the midst of the frustratingly generic supernatural chaos around them, and supporting player Lili Taylor certainly throws herself into the role of the mother terrorised by spirits, even if it does often come across as a little silly – more the fault of the poor screenplay than her overacting.
Overall, then, I really wasn’t overly impressed by The Conjuring. It has its merits, from good visuals to moderately strong performances, but it falls flat on its face with a painfully generic and one-dimensional story that, following a predictable and inconsequential narrative arc to the letter throughout, offers very little in the way of the refreshing, exciting drama it seems to aim for, which is why I’m giving it a 6.7.