Paranormal & Supernatural in Review: The Conjuring (2013)
Starring: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Ron Livingston, and Lili Taylor
Written By: Chad Hayes and Carey W. Hayes
Directed By: James Wan
Synopsis: Shortly after moving into a new house, a family becomes terrorized by demonic forces. After learning of the world renowned paranormal investigating team of Ed and Lorraine Warren, the family asks for their help. Upon visiting the family in their home, the Warrens find themselves confronting a powerful demonic entity determined to continue its reign of horror.
Review By: Joshua Macmillan
When I think of modern horror, James Wan is one of the first directors that come to mind. I would say it is a fair assumption that Wan comes to mind for a lot of us genre fans. From his initial dive into horror with the Saw franchise, his Insidious films, to what I am writing about now with The Conjuring, James Wan has become a horror icon in the realm of creatives.
Looking back at The Conjuring, I remember it looking interesting but not one that I would want to see in theaters necessarily. It looked like it was your standard jump fest with ghosts and just a retread of his previous paranormal film Insidious (2010). I did see this in theaters in its original run and found it to be rather bland, but at that time I was wanting extreme gore. I had some high hopes for The Conjuring to provide some stomach-churning body horror and was let down. Looking back at the original trailers for the film before revisiting it- I don’t know what I was thinking.
I think the directors name put that thought in my head because of the Saw franchise, but even with Saw, he only directed the first film which is not filled with gore like its sequels. Nevertheless, I had different expectations in 2013. For major releases in theaters, horror seemed to be struggling. In April of that year we saw the release of Fede Alvarez’s amazing remake to Evil Dead which kind of revived that year’s horror and gave me the extreme gore and violence that I had been craving. A few months later I found myself in a nearly empty theater (I had waited a couple of weeks to see this.) watching Wan’s newest flick, The Conjuring and walked out as the credits were rolling a bit let down instead of unnerved or grossed out.
Despite my initial reaction to the lack of gore and violence, The Conjuring does have an interesting story that even then sucked me in. I personally wanted something visceral and that was the sole reason I found it bland. Everything else in the film was enjoyable for me but the film was not what I wanted. I was extremely excited when Machine Mean announced that this year would be a look back at paranormal films. Another fair assumption (if you will allow me one more in a single review), would be that as an audience- we are burned out on all the ghost and possession films. For a while it felt as if Hollywood was just trying to force these films down our throats and now, they have hit our metaphorical gag reflex.
This retrospective gives us the opportunity to go back and take another look at these films and maybe find some gems. The Conjuring was given the big Hollywood treatment, it was widely marketed, and took audiences by storm. The film’s box office alone has brought in over $300 million. Hard to imagine horror films doing that kind of business but I find it amazing and refreshing. The Conjuring also kicked off an entire cinematic universe, bringing us Annabelle (2014) and its sequel- Annabelle: Creation (2017), and The Nun (2018). There are still more stories to tell yet and after revisiting this first film, I find myself becoming just as excited for this universe as I am for any Marvel or DC film in their respective universes. I love that the above-mentioned franchises are stand-alone stories but tie into each other in a cohesive way with very little ret-conning involved. With that being said, lets get into my thoughts on James Wan’s The Conjuring!
From the film’s initial set up, I was sucked into the story yet again. Coming back to this one, I could see the threads that they were dangling for us. You could tell that the writers care about what they are doing. I’m not sure if the original intention was to spin off into a whole universe, but no matter which way you look at it the writing is top-notch. If The Conjuring had been left as a singular film without any sequels, on a story basis the film would be completely satisfying.
The film is full of great atmosphere and earns its scares with great set ups that remind me of those classic paranormal horror films from the 70’s that we all hold near and dear to our hearts. Speaking of heart, The Conjuring manages to pour a little bit of sentiment into the story as well, making us feel for the Perron family as they are terrorized and traumatized by a malicious entity. You begin to feel bad for the family and that is something I didn’t get until this viewing.
The cast in this film is amazing, Vera Farmiga absolutely kills it with her acting abilities and Patrick Wilson really comes off as a caring and loving husband who genuinely wants to help the Perron family. If I had one complaint about the casting it would be with Ron Livingston. He isn’t bad in the film at all but certain aspects of his character just didn’t feel real to me. He came across a little wooden towards the end of the film, but it doesn’t hurt the film at all.
Wan uses escalation when setting up his scares and doesn’t give into the classic tropes of the cat jumping out of a cupboard or someone turning a corner and their friend bumping into them. He utilizes the environment and an amazing sound design to suck you into the moment and deliver a chill when you least expect it, where you least expect it.
I mentioned the trailers making me expect something else and while I thought we would be getting some great body horror type scares, I also thought it would be filled with cheap jump scares that were all spoiled in the trailer. This was not the case. I remember my initial viewing in the theater getting a couple of jumps out of me that I didn’t expect. Sitting down to watch it now, the scares that got me before didn’t get me, but others did. This film got under my skin more than made me jump out of it and I can’t praise it enough for that.
At the end of the day, The Conjuring is an atmospheric roller coaster that ratchets up its tension and earns every scare that it has coming for you. I will highly recommend this to anyone looking for a spooky movie to watch and cannot wait to revisit The Conjuring 2 tonight for my next Machine Mean review! Have you seen The Conjuring? What did you think about it? Let us know down below in the comments!
My name is Joshua Macmillan, I am an author of horror and dark fiction. My first publication is a short story within the 13:Night Terrors anthology published by Limitless Publishing! I am currently working on my first novel and plan to have as many short stories published as possible while I work on the novel! I look forward to hearing from you guys! You can find me on Facebook and Twitter, as well as email @ firstname.lastname@example.org.
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