From director James Wan (Saw, Dead Silence, Insidious) comes another modern horror based on real-life events, this time focusing-on one of the many cases of the Warrens set in the year of 1971, and while the film does succeed more so than many other modern horrors, soon leading the ‘The Conjuring’ to become an enormous horror franchise with the likes of it’s sequels, ‘Annabelle’, ‘The Nun’ and more. The original film still does suffer from a variety of issues, which leads it to become more forgettable than anything else by the end of its runtime.
In 1971, after ‘Carolyn’ and ‘Roger Perron’ move their family into a dilapidated Rhode Island farmhouse, they soon begin to suspect there may be a dark presence haunting them. So as the abnormities begin to increase, ‘Carolyn’ contacts paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren for help, who together, begin delving into the disturbing history behind the family’s new home in an attempt to stop the evil.
Whilst more enjoyable than a large number of other modern horrors as already mentioned, I wasn’t overly invested in the film’s story. As although the film is effective in some areas, in others the film simply doesn’t stick the landing. Feeling mostly like your standard horror story without ever delving too deep into the characters or time-period. As despite a few thrilling scenes with the spirits themselves, I always felt a slightly more character-driven narrative would’ve benefitted the film overall.
The cast is definitely one of the film’s better aspects, as Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga do have a decent amount of chemistry together as the married paranormal investigators the Warrens. Lili Taylor also does a decent job as the family’s concerned mother, especially further into the film as the story becomes more intense. Unfortunately however, Ronald Livingston who portrays the father of the family, is easily the weakest actor within the film, as he never really seems overly panicked or scared of these paranormal events, regardless of the scene (which becomes especially clear nearing the end of the film).
The cinematography by John R. Leonetti is definitely an improvement over his previous work-on the ‘Insidious’ series, as the film does have a few appealing shots here and there despite never really being anything exceptional. The film does however, make excellent use of P.O.V. shots during many of the tense scenes at night within the farmhouse, placing the audience in the position of the characters themselves, which I personally found very effective. As according to director James Wan, much of the film’s visual design was actually inspired by classic 1970s horrors such as: ‘The Exorcist’, ‘The Omen’ and ‘The Amityville Horror’.
Although not quite as distinctive as some other modern horror soundtracks, the original score by Joseph Bishara isn’t completely forgettable. As the score does help to build tension during quite a few scenes, as well as also back-up some of the emotional moments between characters (as short as they may be).
I was also surprised to learn that the film doesn’t entirely rely on jump-scares, as although they are present within the film, ‘The Conjuring’ does feel more focused on creating an eerie atmosphere and having many creepy visuals throughout. Rather than the usual bombardment of jump-scares, which was definitely a breath of fresh air. One element I thought was a little weaker than some of James Wan’s other films was the design of the ghosts themselves, as the design of the spirit haunting family’s farmhouse is one of the most generic and dull designs you could think of when it comes to creating a horror antagonist. Especially when compared to the many memorable designs of the spirits/demons within the ‘Insidious’ franchise.
To conclude, whilst ‘The Conjuring’ does have some great elements, and at least attempts to create something slightly different from your typical horror flick. I never really felt the film excelled in any particular area, as the majority of the film felt mostly very bland to me despite its decent cast and creepy atmosphere in some scenes. Overall, a 5/10 for: ‘The Conjuring’, as while there are definitely worse modern horrors, I feel there is also much better out there, perhaps even in this same franchise.