Big ominous house in the sticks? Tick. Children being creepy? Tick. Unnerving tinkling musical item? Tick. Cellar, dark spaces, ghosts, dusty piano. Quadruple tick. ‘The Conjuring’ conjures up all these staple horror movie devices. It’s a joyfully creepy story and apart from it having a damp ending and predictable components all horror movies have it’s entertaining and shot well enough to warrant it as one of the better films of its kind in recent years.
This 2013 film sees some paranormal investigators being introduced through a brief ghostly opening to set them up as the ghost hunting characters. After safely ridding a house of a spooky doll they’re soon called to try and exorcise demonic spirits from a house in Rhode Island. The Perrons; a large family have moved in and it really didn’t take long for them to start suspecting something dangerous was in charge of their home. It’s down to Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) to expel the spirits before the family are killed.
James Wan directed this film and his horror know how helps the film tremendously. You can tell he was the man behind ‘Saw’, as he builds up that creepy shadowy scare factor. Also he created Billy the puppet and I have no idea if he helped come up with the cracked and tormenting Annabelle doll but it would make sense. Which itself is now getting a spin off and is not far off at all from being seen over here in the UK. It’s a smart little opening to introduce the Warrens and as per usual the based on a true story line always helps the film feel that much more nerve wracking.
Wan and his crew work effectively in providing old school scare tactics to make you either jump or at least feel like sinking into your chair is the best way to face the oncoming spook. I must admit as someone who finds a lot of OTT jumpy motives not scary, this film did have me worrying about what could be seen or heard next. The whole hide and seek clap game is one of those clear moments that piles on the scary tension and though the film never feels that full of scares it definitely is creepy, really creepy.
I liked odd little moments of camerawork in this film, the splendid rotations of the camera as it upends and twists upside down are a cool deft touch to add the fluidity of the moment as Lorraine runs out and Drew searches for April. There’s another smooth flipping of the camera as Christine Perron seeks under her bed for a possible reason to who was pulling on her leg. The camera stays slow and steady a lot of the time which obviously works nicely in drafting in the layer of tension needed for a good horror film. It sweeps through the big creaking house letting each room have its time for the audience to inspect through their hand covered eyes what could be hiding in the corners.
Joseph Bishara aides the creepy factor of it all with his score and it rises and falls so often that it becomes part of the film in never knowing when a loud shrill note could kick into your eardrums making you bolt. The piano may have nothing to do with his musical influence but the instrument in the cellar is an obvious but effective tool in stirring up some extra worrying component of self playing keys.
I much preferred the Warren family side of proceedings as the seven strong Perron clan only really serve as the victims to fall under the nasty spells of witches and ghosts. Lorraine and Ed are much more interesting and their story based on true events is a fleshier one to watch unfold. Are they hoaxes done by frauds? Are they really investigators which a treasure trove of haunted objects? Either way they’re intriguing characters with a daughter in the mix to add to the more emotional attachment that they do have something to lose. As they help the Perrons the fear of paranormal activity bleeds into their personal life and it becomes a clashing ride of scares.
One of the main issues I had with the film was the obvious way in setting up a potential sequel with the whirling mirror and the unlockable Annabelle. That and the grand scale final act that became so madcap that different music could have made the scene a comedic sketch spoofing exorcisms. It was too much and it annoyed me after doing so well in subtly setting up creepy moments. It’s a film that has certain moments that go away from cliches but a lot of it is things we’ve seen done multiple times before so that’s a weakness.
I can truly see why it did so well at the box office and with critics because it is acted really well, thick layers of dread are cemented on time and time again making you feel like you too are in this god awful demented house. It’s atmospheric and tense enough to split it apart from other more gore drenched or OTT jumpy horrors.
Here we have an effective creepy film that gives us one more haunted house to be afraid of.