Main cast: Vera Farmiga (Lorraine Warren), Patrick Wilson (Ed Warren), Lili Taylor (Carolyn Perron), Ron Livingston (Roger Perron), Shanley Caswell (Andrea Perron), Hayley McFarland (Nancy Perron), Joey King (Christine Perron), Mackenzie Foy (Cindy Perron), and Kyla Deaver (April Perron)
Director: James Wan
As much as I want to support James Wan – chalk it up to blind support for a Malaysian-born fellow making a name for himself – I confess that I find his films on the dull and predictable side. The Conjuring is said to be the biggest and scariest movie of this decade, if the hyperbole can be believed, and despite the fact I couldn’t make it through Insidious without falling into a bored stupor, I vow to sit through this one.
Well, it’s supposedly based on a true story, that of paranormal investigators Lorraine and Ed Warren’s investigation of weird happenings in the home of the Perron family. Carolyn, Roger, and their daughters experience the whole nine yards – dead dog, weird sounds and voices at night, assault by unseen forces, doors that lock themselves seemingly on their own, shattered picture frames. All that’s missing from the kitchen sink of creepy tropes is rape by the tree in the garden. Our intrepid investigators track the cause of the assaults from haunted house movies past and present to Bathsheba. That’s a witch who sacrificed her baby to the devil before committing suicide, and now her spirit is responsible for the rash of murder and suicide plaguing this land for a long time now.
The Conjuring boasts of some capable performance from the cast and production values that do not seem like they originate from a shoe box. The movie wisely relies more on lighting and atmosphere, instead of loud sounds and garish special effects, to create the spooky vibes. While there are some creepy moments here, for the most part the movie may as well be a reboot of Poltergeist or any other haunted house movie, take your pick. The whole thing is familiar and even predictable, and the only concession it has to current fads is the constant insistence that this is a true story, just like every other horror movie in the market these days. Everything is true, really, now give us all your money.
One thing that stands out here like a sore thumb is the constant reinforcement of traditional gender roles – even stereotypes – based on some kind of Christianity-endorsed family values. Women without the guiding hand of a man are a source of evil, who would sell their souls to the devil and sacrifice babies in the process. The females of the Perron family are generally useless sorts, existing as victims and damsels in distress until Roger has to protect them all. Even Lorraine plays a more traditional visceral “look into your heart” role compared to Ed, who gets to be the more proactive one.
It’s understandable that this movie portrays Lorraine and Ed as such amazing and wonderful people who would use the power of Jesus Christ to turn the tide of evil, but the lionization is to such an extent that I just have to raise a brow at the whole laying it really thick nature of the whole thing. Come on, those two were involved the whole Amityville haunting fiasco. Was it stated in the contract that this movie could only be filmed if it was also a video petition to deify those two people?
At any rate, The Conjuring is a perfectly decent horror movie, with better acting and more effective scary moments than most other haunted house movies in the last few years. However, there is nothing really new or exciting here, just a faithful rehash of all the usual tropes and conventions of this sort of films. I’m not sure why everyone is so hyped up about this movie, but I have to admit, it’s not like there are many haunted house movies that measure up to this as well. I guess it’d do for what it is.
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