The Conjuring, 2013
Directed by: James Wan
Starring: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Ron Livingston, Lili Taylor
The film which started, whether it was the intention or not, a whole series of films, which includes The Conjuring and 2016’s The Conjuring 2, as well as its spin-offs 2014’s Annabelle and 2017’s Annabelle: Creation and the 2018 supernatural film The Nun.
The film documents an event in the lives of Ed (Patrick Wilson, The Commuter) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga, The Departed), two paranormal investigators who are called to a house where a family (a husband (Ron Livingston), his wife (Lili Taylor, Maze Runner: Scorch Trials) and their five daughters) are being tormented by an unknown presence. This film is a perfectly good example of how a good horror film needs time. The attacks from the unknown villain come in three stages, each more violent and tormenting than the last. Starting off with a few leg pulls or noises, the second round become more noticeable as it reveals itself to a few members of the family before the police and the Warren family come to assist and the attacks reach their final stage. If this film were to be short twenty minutes to the usual 90 minutes that horror films are given lately, it would have been much worse, as the attacks would not have had their chance to build up to their climactic conclusion.
The acting in this film is fine from all concerned, which isn’t surprising considering Vera Famiga has been part of an Oscar-winning film (The Departed) and Patrick Wilson’s history in horror films (Insidious, Insidious: Chapter 2 as well as The Conjuring 1 and 2). But the most noticeable thing about this film is the camera shots: there are some truly brilliant shots where the camera pans from top to bottom over the characters, as well as some really long takes with all the supernatural events occurring. These shots are all brilliant and really help this film stand out amongst most horrors that get pumped out.
While the camera shots and the time length are all very well, the most impressive thing about those is how they make this film seem unique in the genre despite being full of tropes that have been used before. The haunted presence in the house is as old as horror films itself, and the use of a location in the middle of nowhere is older than that, the events after the possession takes place have been done before as have possessions and birds suicide, and their dog refusing to cross the threshold knowing of the presence all scream that it’s a generic horror film, but it’s done brilliantly with its acting and editing and its chilling moments to make it seem unique. The clapping game they play comes in threes (much like the presence’s attacks) and, again, each rises in seriousness. While we know immediately that something is not right with the house, the pacing in which it builds up to the climax is brilliant.
A gem amongst a genre filed with poorly created films, The Conjuring brings its own uniqueness to a series of events catalogued in many horror films before it. While its accuracy in terms of it being ‘based on a true story’ may be questioned, the producers and the directors have made a truly chilling film, and it’s no surprise to see it spanning its own series (even if they aren’t as good).
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