Written by J. Weagle
I’ll be honest and say that upon initially hearing about James Wan’s newest horror film, I wasn’t that excited. It was another one of those “based on a true story” films that seem to be more and more frequent these days. It is obvious why they have become so popular in Hollywood – it’s because like me others are just too damn hard to scare these days. The audience that will go to the cinema to watch a film like The Conjuring have seen other ‘based on true events’ films, but more importantly they have seen just about every single way a house can be haunted. This leads to the biggest issue of The Conjuring, for as good as it is, it has ultimately been done before.
The story of the film is one we have come to know, and to its credit is actually based on a “true” event and real people who claim to have participated in said event. The story follows the Perron family, which includes a husband, wife, and five daughters, who move into a new home that just so happens to be haunted by a demonic ghost with a colourful past. This is where the true main protagonists enter, Ed and Lorraine Warren who are a husband and wife ghostbusters team that travel the land helping those who are struggling with supernatural or paranormal entities. I know what you’re thinking, that doesn’t sound like anything new. You’d be right, it is essentially the same story that we have come to love (or hate) and has been done numerous times in other films, the one that I would considered most similar is The Amityville Horror.
With that being said, The Conjuring is a superior film in almost every way to The Amityville Horror for the main reason being that, although the film doesn’t really add anything new to the genre, it does what it intends to very well and with the slightest touch of Wan’s style. It plays not so much like a homage to other haunting movies but more like an all-star lineup of scary scenes that work extremely well at building suspense and terror.
The first half of the film is without a doubt the strongest, as Wan takes his time to develop the characters and the house, allowing the atmosphere to linger and the dread to set in rather than relying too heavily on cheap scares.
The film is set in the 1970’s and Wan sticks to this aesthetic not just in the characters wardrobe, or period vehicles but in how the film was shot as well. His attention to detail is great and tossing in homages to earlier horror films and camera angles that will make even the most jaded nostalgic horror fan smile right down to the terrific opening credit sequence that tips its hat to many horror classics.
As I said before, the main struggle for The Conjuring is that it doesn’t offer anything unique. However, what it does deliver it does extremely well, especially within the first half as the last half tends to lose some of the dread and grounded reality that enhances these haunted house films. There are some truly great scares in here, some that work and you’re not entirely sure why and The Conjuring is worth seeing for those scares alone.