The Conjuring

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Director: James Wan.
Screenplay: Chad Hayes, Carey Hayes.
Starring: Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Lili Taylor, Ron Livingston, Shanley Caswell, Hayley McFarland, Joey King, Mackenzie Foy, Kyla Deaver, Shannon Kook, John Brotherton, Sterling Jerins.

Want to play a game of hide and clap?

Having already had a hand in fuelling the string of torture porn horrors when he began the “Saw” franchise in 2004, director James Wan opts for a more retrained approach to his latest horror. “The Conjuring” harks back to vintage horror movies of the ’70’s where atmosphere takes precedence over shock tactics. As a result, it manages to be one of the more successful horror movies of recent times.

Up rooting to a rural Rhode Island house, Roger Perron (Ron Livingston), his wife Carolyn (Lili Taylor) and their five daughters get more than they bargained for when strange and terrifying phenomena begin to plague their lives within their new home. Desperate for answers, they enlist the help of Psychic investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) but even this experienced couple find the haunting beyond anything they’ve witnessed before.

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When it comes to horror, I’m a hard viewer to please. Even more so, when one from the genre proclaims to be “based on a true story”. This label can sometimes be a hindrance as it really has to convince me, whereby others might be more willing to readily accept it. For the most part, it works here as the characters of Ed and Lorraine Warren where actual paranormal investigators that worked on the Amityville case which was brought to the screen in Stuart Rosenberg’s 1979 film “The Amityville Horror“. Anyone familiar with that movie will see the similarities involved. In fact, James Wan models “The Conjuring” on many films from that era. Even the 70’s style and attire help in taking us back there but it’s his simplicity and refusal to go for cheap jump-scares that is most admirable. Instead, he adopts a more psychological approach by staging the tension and suspense in small doses. Of course, the usual machinations and conventions are customary; there are things that go bump in the night, freaky-eyed dolls, the suggestion of things lurking under the bed and, of course, the proverbial creaking doors that open and close by themselves. Wan has to be given credit for their success, though. His power of suggestion is what keeps the film ticking over and his more than reliable cast help immeasurably despite their abundance of stilted dialogue. As is the case with most horror films, though, revelations must be made and when they are, the film starts to lose some credibility and that “based on a true story” tag comes back to haunt it as much as the characters are haunted. It’s such a shame that Wan’s skilful and authentic chills are wasted in the final third but up until then, he conjures an effective and frightening piece of work.

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After “Insidious chapter 2“, James Wan will, apparently, be leaving horror behind and moving on to pastures new. If this proves to be the case, then he will have left the horror genre with one that’s worthy of note from recent times.

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Mark Walker

Trivia: The state of Rhode Island does not require home sellers to disclose documented paranormal and supernatural hauntings to potential buyers. This is why the Perrons were unaware of all previous events.

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55 Responses to “The Conjuring”

  1. Unfortunately I wasn’t pleased with this one Mark. I loved Wan’s Insidious but this, despite all the hype, fell flat for me.
    Here’s What I Thought! http://bit.ly/14Hcknv

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    • I wasn’t that keen on Insidious to be honest. It was half of a good horror but fell apart towards the end. This also fell a little wayward towards its denouement but not as extreme for me. I’ll swing by on your thoughts a little later. Cheers man!

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  2. I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed this. I love watching horrors (more for comedic purposes than anything, though every now and then you want something that is actually pretty good), though I prefer a drama any day of the week.

    The Conjuring, however, impressed the hell out of me. Far more traditional and taking the less is more approach very seriously and pulling it off without a hitch. I liked the cast, the camerawork and the entire film overall. I am glad to see that you like it too, even with the flaws that are there, Wan made a success of it.

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    • Yeah, there were flaws Zoe but for the most part, Wan delivered the goods here. I’m normally very critical of recent horrors but this one grabbed me from the offset and almost had me for its entirety. Wasn’t overly keen on how it wrapped up but still an effective flick.

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      • Yeah I think the end was definitely where the flaws really had their moment, but everything before that was mostly awesome. I was afraid of the hype surrounding this seeing as Insidious had the same hype and I really didn’t enjoy that.

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      • Yeah, I agree. Insidious received a lot of hype and I was quite disappointed in that myself. I have absolutely no interest in part 2 as a result.

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      • Not even remotely. Pffff.

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  3. Good stuff Mark. I was really impressed with how much this film entertained me without reinventing the wheel. I mean much of what we see has been done before. It’s just done so much better here.

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  4. Definitely a high quality flick. Good review.

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  5. This is actually one of the few movies I went to the theater to see this year. I’m old school when it comes to horror movies so I really liked it. I thought it was much better than the Insidious movies although they weren’t bad. My feeling about movies is show me something I haven’t seen before (Saw) or show me something I’ve seen before but done very well (The Conjuring). Good stuff Mark.

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    • Cheers Dave. I’m pretty old school in my horror flicks too and that exactly why I took to this one. It’s great to see one with some restraint and wringing the suspense out without resorting to cheap thrills.

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  6. Fine review Mark. I enjoyed this one but did think it was like a tick list of horror tropes.it was handled very well though and the performances were pretty good too.

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  7. I’m not normally a horror watcher but this looks like it might be worth watching… by day…

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    • It is certainly worth some time Abbi. I’m not overly keen on horrors either as so many fail to hit the mark but this does deliver the goods for the majority of it’s running time.

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  8. One of my favorites of the year for me, Mark. In fact, I like this much more than Insidious. Great look at this, my friend.

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    • Thanks Michael. I really wasn’t a fan of Insidious and expected much of the same with this one. Fortunately, it was much better and I found myself really getting into it.

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  9. I loved this thing – one of my favorites of the year! Glad you liked it for the most part –

    Maybe one day you and I can go to some haunted house over in Scotland, get pissed and fight some ghosts!

    Boat Drinks!

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    • Haha! That sounds like a plan. Let’s keep that in mind for future adventures. 😉

      Boat drinks!

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    • Haha! Let’s keep that in mind for further adventures! 😉

      Boat Drinks!!

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    • When I was in Edinburgh once, I went on a ghost walk in some cemetery. It was awesome. But I didn’t get scratched or anything – apparently some people have unexplained scratches and stuff afterwards. Or so they say… 😉

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      • I’m from Glasgow and have to admit that I’ve never done the Edinburgh ghost walks. They sound good though… Scratches and all 😉
        Scotland itself is steeped in plenty of history. Glasgow also has these ghost walks and I’ve never even checked these out also. I normally do it in countries I visit but never in my own.

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  10. This is probably too scary for me. I like to watch horror movies that have aged at least 15 years so they don’t pack quite the same wallop as they used to. But good to see you had some thrills with this one.
    And speaking of Saw, have you seen “Living With Jigsaw” yet? If not you should youtube it immediately because it is hilarious!

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  11. Nice review Mark. Even though I wouldn’t consider it terribly scary, I would still say it’s a bunch of fun, especially if the horror genre is one of, if not your favorites.

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    • Cheers Dan. I’m not a massive horror fan but I found lots to enjoy here too. It was quite scary in the beginning but it seemed to loosen off as it went on. Still, like you say, it was a good bit of fun.

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  12. Still have yet to see this, although I’ve enjoyed Wan’s other efforts. It still seems odd to me that he’s helming Fast and Furious 7! Great review as always Mark.

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    • I’ve not been a massive fan of Wan’s, to be honest, Mark but this worked quite well for me. If he is giving up horror, then that might turn out to be a shame as he has hit a good one here. As for Fast & furious 7, I can’t quite get my head round that either.

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  13. Nice review, Mark. This was a decent enough movie, even if I didn’t find it to be nearly as scary as so many. Still very well made, if nothing else. But it’ll be interesting to see what Wan will bring us in his departure from the genre.

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    • Yeah, I found the frights to be there in the beginning and it built assuredly but tailed off towards the end. Like you say, though, very well made. It will be interesting to see what Wan delivers outwith his comfort zone but Fast & Furious 7 doesn’t seem like a good place to start.

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  14. Nice review man. I missed this at the cinema so am keen to check it out on blu-ray. Think it is being released pretty soon out here.

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  15. Good review. Still don’t know if it interests me enough to give it a watch.

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  16. Even the trailer terrified me Mark, so I’ll take your word for it that this is scary stuff! It’s nice to see that there’s a horror film that relies more on suspense rather than gore.

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    • Yeah, it delivers quite a few well crafted frights, Ruth. I’m normally critical of recent horrors but I actually quite liked this one. It’s done in an old fashioned style and it works.

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      • I have to admit I’m pretty curious to see this one as I know it’s not full of blood and gore, but I’m afraid I’d still have nightmares! Horror films often stay with me for years, to this day I’m still terrified of The Exorcist I saw over 20 years ago!

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      • Hmmm. This eludes to (and borrows from) all sorts of classics horrors of the 70’s – The Exorcist included. It’s not as powerful as that but it does have it’s moments. Give it a go, Ruth, there’s nothing like a wee doze of the Heebie-Jeebies now and again. 😉

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  17. Excellent review, Mark. I liked it a bit less that you, as I feel it didn’t do anything I hadn’t seen before, and it did get a bit silly towards the end. But to give the film some credit, the “hide and clap” game was one of the most genuinely tense and scary things I’ve seen in horror movies of late. Plus, I think James Wan is really growing as a director. It’ll be interesting to see what he does outside of the horror genre.

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    • Cheers Monkey. I’d totally agree with you there. It did get silly towards the end and didn’t do anything different from the horrors of old. I actually liked that about it, though. It’s good to see the old style put to use again, rather than the abundance of gruesome torture porn movies we’ve been getting of late.

      That “hide and clap” deal was indeed stuff of horror gold, wasn’t it? Loved that.

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  18. Nice review, although I did like it a bit more than you did. It’s certainly closer to the “traditional” horror I like. I was just happy about it not being torture porn for a change!

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    • I totally agree! I’m not a fan of torture porn stuff at all. It was great to see something sticking to the traditional method and actually working. I can only hope that this is a catalyst for more of the same. If so, I may start to get more into horror movies again.

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  19. Great review man. James Wan thoroughly impressed me here, but then again, I am partial to his partially-psychotic mind. . . Saw takes a special kind of person to appreciate lol. Surely will be interesting to see what he does with Fast 7 tho!

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    • Thanks again Tom. I thought was okay but other than that, Wan hasn’t really done it for me. However, he showed great restraint here and loved his choice to stick with old-school horror making.

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