The horror genre is going through something of a crisis at present, with a lack of innovative ideas proving to be rather destructive, with so few worthy productions made each year. One regular horror stomping ground we have certainly grown tired of is exorcism, which has been covered extensively in cinema – with a recent picture The Devil Inside attempting to bring a unique spin to the theme and yet still falling wide of the mark. However in regards to James Wan’s The Conjuring – herein lies a feature that proves that if done well, it doesn’t particularly matter if there is absolutely nothing that we haven’t seen before, in what is a remarkably entertaining piece of cinema.
Based on a “true” story, The Conjuring takes place in Rhode Island in the early 1970s, as married couple Roger (Ron Livingston) and Carolyn Perron (Lili Taylor) move to a new, dilapidated house with their five adoring daughters. However when supernatural occurrences begin to take place across the house – with their pet dog dying a mysterious death, and the daughters seeing visions at night and weird noises being heard from the basement, this initially weird and unexplainable set of circumstances soon turns into a full on nightmare, so they call paranormal investigators Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) to come and take a look, only to discover one of the worst satanic hauntings ever recorded.
Though lacking somewhat in genuine fear, The Conjuring is certainly an enjoyable cinematic experience as your entertainment is never once in question. There are occasional jumps and scares, but in all honesty, it’s the laughing which is more consistent. Not by way of mocking the title, but instead we have the typical “I know what’s about to happen” laugh, that sweeps over the expectant audience. A laugh that, if without, could simply result in a lot of people crying pathetically. The picture is well structured, maximising the effect, as while the Perron family are going through the motions of a paranormal attack, it’s being explained by an adjacent lecture by both Ed and Lorraine as we feel well versed in the art of exorcism, as we build towards our grand finale. Such narrative construction merely shows off the credentials of a director who is fast becoming a safe bet in the horror genre, following on from the likes of Saw and Insidious.
However on a more negative note, the 70s setting isn’t quite used to its advantage. There is something naturally spooky about leaving our comfort zone in horror movies, and moving towards a more simpler time without all of the technology we have today is a theme not quite explored in enough depth. Aside from the use of the word groovy, little else would point towards the era depicted. We could do with a couple more moustaches to help us along the way. That said, the setting helps tie this film to the likes of The Exorcist, of which this works as something of a homage to.
Despite having a story lacking in depth, The Conjuring almost feels like a master class in conventional horror movie making, as though this is the archetype of the genre. It ticks every single box along in the way the suspense is built up and the camerawork is presented, as each and every scare arrives at the precise moment you had anticipated. Although this is exemplary of the genre – and thus lacking in any of its own true identity – sometimes such commonplace, traditional movie making is exactly what you’re in the mood for.