Directed by James Wan and starring Patrick Wilson, both of whom I loved for their work with Insidious, The Conjuring had a lot to live up to for me to even consider it half as good. I was expecting the unforgiving soundtrack, unexpected scare set ups, and interesting camera angles. I wasn’t expecting a pretty compelling and fun story though. I have to admit I didn’t find the movie as scary as Insidious, mainly because I am now familiar with James Wan’s style of set ups, but I can’t deny I was caught off guard at least a couple of times and I went home with an uncomfortable feeling about dolls.
And that says a lot actually, because the doll was never actually seen doing much of anything other than being disgustingly sinister looking. Once again they took a small budget and used every penny of it to maximum effectiveness.
Just because I wasn’t pissing my pants doesn’t mean that others won’t be. This is a movie that will scare you, but unlike Insidious which only brought an onslaught of scares, The Conjuring weaves a compelling tale together. I have to admit I came home and Googled how much was based on a true story and how much was bullshit, but was pleased to see interviews with the Perron family claiming the movie follows the story pretty closely, except that it condensed the events of nine years into two years.
With a large cast I was surprised to see that everyone was given actual character and not just subjected to the general tropes, not that the movie is trope free. In fact the general beauty of The Conjuring movie is that is takes the tropes we’ve come to expect, embraces them, and then through strong storytelling breathes fresh life into them. From a possessed doll, birds crashing into windows, clocks stopping, doors mysteriously opening, and a young girl being able to talk to an imaginary friend The Conjuring says yes to any and all the tropes we’ve known through the years and uses them as sub-stories that winds together into a great third act. Fortunately, the movie is scary from beginning to end and offers a breath of air only when the Warrens (real life paranormal investigators) are at their home. Speaking of the Warren’s home, the only big misstep the movie made was in setting up an awesome scene where their daughter is home alone, defenseless, the door to a room filled with demonic vessels is opened and….. I won’t spoil it. It was still a good scene, but led you to believe things were about to hit the fan on a level only seen in Cabin in The Woods.
I give The Conjuring an 8.8 out of 10 for taking classic material and making it fresh and exciting. Some missed opportunities that will obviously be exploited in the already green-lit sequel would have elevated this movie to god-like status.