So. The Conjuring.
When I first saw the trailer, I was like ehh, whatever. Then I saw it was going to be James Wan's newest flick. James Wan can do no wrong if he's in the directorial seat.
James Wan (along with Leigh Whannell) created the mega-franchise that ended up being Saw. He spearheaded the entire project, and at the time, Saw was an amazing step forward in horror. It broke new ground. Unfortunately, the series lost it's luster pretty much as soon as the first film ended.
After that he created Dead Silence, a very underrated gem that actually seemed to influence the intro of The Conjuring, which I'll get to in a few. Leigh was also attached to this film, and although the script is a little more shallow, and the acting is mixed, Ryan Kwanten and Donnie Wahlberg make a memorable duo and the film is quite memorable.
Next was Insidious. I loved Insidious. It's undeniable that it fell off some after the first half, but I still thoroughly enjoyed it. Again, Leigh was attached, and they had the same love for the genre expressed all over again. Insidious was fresh, and it seems like since it came out, other films have been trying to capitalize on the buzz that Insidious was able to build. I've probably seen a dozen films that have tried to copy and emulate the vibe that Insidious left audiences. Off the top of my head, there's Sinister, Dark Skies, The Possession, The Apparition, The Devil Inside, and the Paranormal sequels to an extent too.
And that's where The Conjuring comes in. I felt like I was getting into another one of these before I started watching the trailer.
As usual, I tried to keep exposure to the film at a minimum. I watched the trailer once or twice, saw it in the theaters maybe once, and didn't read up on it.
I feel like this is a mesh of all of the films I mentioned prior. Just about every single one except Saw.
I understand that this is supposedly based on true stories/events, but I kind of wish they didn't even mention that. I hate when horror films try to market a film by saying it's based on actual events, unless were talking about a biopic. Despite that, I felt like the film established the Warrens' very well. Vera and Patrick were awesome together. I loved Vera prior to Bates Motel, but she left me kind of shaky on her after her over-the-top portrayal of Norma Bates. The chemistry between Patrick Wilson and Vera worked. Not only was the script very-well made, but the performances themselves were also well done. If there's anything that this film does WAY better than the rest of modern horror films, is that the script is top-notch, and the performances are superb for the genre. Another great performance were all the kids, and the dad especially. Ron Livingston was great, and portrayed probably the best father in horror films since The Amityville Horror. The little girl Christine and Cindy were both fantastic for being such young actors. Joey King (Christine) has such a memorable performance, I was shocked how well she played her character. Not your typical overacting from your child-actors. A lot of these child horror actors are dumb, pointless, and just scream all film. The intern and the police officer also provided some much needed relief after so much tention. They play very well off each-other, and although they play stereotypes, they don't go overboard. Just because the intern is Asian, every other line doesn't mention it.
My favorite line of the film is, "I need a U V light."
. It comes at such an odd time, but it's so needed, and it fit so well in the scene.
There's only one performance that left me scratching my head. That of the mother. At first I thought it was Marcia Gay, but after looking it up, I realized why I had such an issue with her performance. The last horror film I remember seeing her in... The Haunting. That dreaded film with Liam and Owen Wilson. She wasn't as terrible in this, but I felt like she didn't hold up her end of the bargain when it came to her acting. I've seen so many better protagonists in these films. Pretty much everyone in this film, Patrick Wilson in Insidious, Ethan Hawke in Sinister, the young girl from The Last Exorcism, and plenty more.
What also surprised me is this film held back a lot. This was Rated R. I expected there to be more diabolical undertones. There were a couple gory scenes, and while it doesn't make a film, I felt like the shock factor was held back so much. I felt like this was a PG-13 film in a lot of parts. Almost all of the scenes prior to the possession scene were very harmless. There isn't anything in here that Paranormal, Insidious, or any of the similar PG-13 horror films didn't already do. And when they finally get to the climax, after seeing the recent update to Evil Dead, I didn't feel like any of the scenes were to graphic. I felt like The Last Exorcism handled their exorcism scene so much better. It was cool to see the demon hanging upside down.
All of the ghost scenes I thought worked VERY well though. James Wan is excellent at that. Those were the best scenes in Insidious. From the hide-and-seek clap game, to the mother on the cabinet, to the little girl banging her head on the door, to all of the cellar scenes, to the little toy box, it was all superb. Wan paces them so well. He understands where the camera should be, and doesn't always just rely on jump-scares. All of the stories that were established beforehand all seem like they'd be perfect for prequel material. The maid killing herself. The mother hanging herself. The mother killing her son.
If there's one other thing that I felt the film didn't accomplish, is that they didn't really seem to break any new ground. No, a film doesn't need to do that to be a great film, and I think this film was great, but it could've been something more. Saw broke new ground for shock/torture-porn. Paranromal brought the lost footage genre back, Insidious brought back the supernatural ghost stories, and even Sinister did something special by really focusing on the tension and horror of it all. If it's not quite making sense, I guess I can say that The Conjuring seemed like it was holding back at times. I don't know what the reason was for holding back, James Wan has made far gorier (Saw), but it just tame. After setting up such an excellent first half of the film, I'd say flawless, they didn't really deliver in the climax. It was getting there, and once she was possessed, it kind of just ended.
I mentioned earlier about a tie-in with Dead Silence. The doll in Dead Silence really reminded me of Annabelle so much. It was a mix of that doll, and Chucky. And a bit of Billy from Saw.
. I was glad they didn't focus on that doll in the film, although it was fun that it made a cameo at the end with Vera/Patrick's child. A whole film based on the doll wouldn't be fresh, but having a little sub-plot about the doll worked just fine.
A sequel is already in the works, and I'll look forward to it, but I am looking forward to Insidious 2 more than the next Conjuring film.
It was great, but it had a few flaws that glared out to me. I have high standards when a horror film gets critical success, and I expect some innovation. I don't think we saw any in The Conjuring, but it's still very good. I personally enjoyed The Cabin in the Woods more, because it was different, AND it was great.
We'll see if The Conjuring keeps James Wan attached. If not, I'll approach with caution.