Crash Analysis: THE CONJURING (2013)

More like THE OVER-RATED

A ghost story you’ve seen before…

Wonderful directing, acting, editing, cinematography, special effects, and at least three Conjuringsolid scares. Sounds like a perfect movie, right? But the script came from the pens of twin brothers Chad and Carey Hayes, the duo who brought us 2007’s pathetic THE REAPING, and the laughable idiocy of HOUSE OF WAX (2005), among others. This time around, finally for horror fans, they delivered a tight well plotted tale. The only problem: We’ve seen this all before.

Though nothing was conjured in THE CONJURING, we follow the Perron family as they purchase a new home (never saw that in a ghost story before). And in short order, weird things happen to all seven of them, including the usual clichés: bumps in the night, banging, shadows, hauntings, dead animals, and possession (ala Wan’s other film, the over-rated INSIDIOUS, thanks to a hokey third act). Yes, we’ve seen all of this many times before – too many times in fact. Then again, with the multitude of ghost stories out there, maybe it’s hard to be original.

For highly spirited fair with new takes on maybe the world’s oldest genre, one must look to films that deliver a unique premise, such as THE SIXTH SENSE (1999) and its torment of a young boy by the spirit world who seeks help from a child therapist, or THE ORPHANAGE (Spain, 2007), where a mother searches for her lost son. (Other examples will arise from the grave in another post.) But the Haye’s brothers break no new ground for the genre – NONE. Then again, they supposedly captured the true tale of the actual Perron family, which took place over a ten year period (1971-1980). In an article from the Christian Post Reporter, Lorraine Warren states that the filmmakers did “a pretty good job” with the Perron family possession/haunting. However, in the past, the Warren’s have come under scrutiny, especially for their most famous case (as hinted in THE CONJURING), the Amityville horror. Many say the hauntings on Long Island never took place, and owners of the home since the 70s have stated that they never experienced one supernatural thing. In USA Today, Andrea Perron, the oldest of the five girls, “says the film is ‘a beautiful tapestry’ with ‘many elements of truth to it, and some moments of fiction.’” Why the Haye’s twins stuck to the same-old-same-old with their fictional bits, should make one wonder. (Maybe they should put down Blake Snyder’s overly abused Save the Cat, and do something less Hollywood formulaic.)

Regardless of the weaknesses of the writing team, James Wan proves he’s no George Lucas, and can definitely direct children (six of them in this case). But the strength of the tale rests in the hands of the story’s key performers: the always fabulous Vera Farmiga, who plays Lorraine Warren, rock solid Patrick Wilson as her husband, Ed, and Lili Taylor who steals the show with her emotionally driven performance as Carolyn Perron. All the actors in the film are fully engaged and keep our blood pumping at every turn.

The special effects, whether practical or CGI based, work well with the perfect lighting and color, and sometimes intriguing camera angles thanks to cinematographer John R. Leonetti (INSIDIOUS, PIRANHA, DEAD SILENCE, and others), which only enhance the off-kilter temperament of the goings-on. One of my favorite scenes involves Judy Warren (Sterling Jerins), traipsing through the Warren home in the wee hours – beautiful work. Horror music maestro, Joseph Bishara (INSIDIOUS, DARK SKIES, NIGHT OF THE DEMON, and more) delivers once again, though he and Wan make certain the music does not interfere with the spooky bits, which would have made this a truly run of the mill cheap thrill ride.

As for “scares,” the movie has three memorable ones, and two come at the equivalent of a head fake, adding to the impact. Again, however, due to the trite nature of the story, this prevents THE CONJURING from being a true ghost story standout. Since most horror movies are pure garbage, thanks to shallow-minded filmmaking, I can understand why so many fans of the genre might say this is an amazing venture when it’s only just “very good.”

If the story had offered something new and interesting, a higher rating would be warranted, but when one watches the third act, and can clearly see what’s coming, that deflates the balloon of suspense regardless of the emotional torrent conjured up by the actors. THE CONJURING certainly is no waste of money, but to place it on a pedestal is a rush to judgment simply because horror fans want something better. Sadly, THE CONJURING isn’t it.

3 out of 5 stars

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