I realize I am a bit late with my review of The Conjuring. I only have one excuse for putting off seeing it and perhaps you will find it valid and excusable: I hate James Wan movies. I do. I hate James Wan movies. I honestly believe that his films are part of what is ruining the horror genre.
Now before I go into my James Wan rant, I will say this: Saw was a phenomenal film. It was well written and the idea behind it was brilliant. Saw brought something new to the genre by creating a villain who didn’t actually kill anyone. The villain put death into the hands of the victims. Only you could decide your fate by doing whatever you needed to survive. Seriously, the film was genius. It should have ended there. We should have known that Hollywood would have run with it, creating awful sequel after awful sequel until the story dissolved somewhere into space and all that was left was gore and shock value.
But Saw is where his film career peaked and he had nowhere to go but down, and he did. Saw III was just alright as the story of Saw was really taking a downward spiral by making Amanda the new villain instead of the victims themselves. The real “Wan Terrible Film Series” began with Dead Silence, a film he wrote and directed about a woman and her ventriloquists dummies who haunted a town and murdered its children. If the story sounds ridiculous, that’s because it is.
Then came Insidious. I am embarrassed that people find that film to be not only frightening, but unpredictable. Sure, the first half of the film was pretty good but then Darth Maul came in sans double ended lightsabre and just destroyed any chance of a decent ending for the film. Come on guys, how did you not see the old lady taking him over? That ending hit me in the face like a Mack truck the second his mother started talking about the old woman following him as a kid. If you watch horror films and did not see that coming, you have paid attention to nothing.
Now, there is The Conjuring. Much to the tune of Insidious, the film started out alright. Very much like The Amityville Horror, Roger (Ron Livingston), Carolyn (Lili Taylor) and their five daughters move into a house in the middle of nowhere that they got for unreasonably cheap. On their first night, they discover that the house has a basement that has been boarded up.
*Let me jump in here and say that you should never open up something that has been boarded shut. You should also never listen to the music box and never, ever read the Latin.*
Now that the basement is open, the family beings to experience strange noises, disgusting rotten meat smells and the occasional tugging of the foot in their sleep. Again, just like The Amityville Horror, the youngest daughter, April, begins to talk to an imaginary friend, Rory, who died in the house.
On one day in particular, things begin to go horribly wrong. All of the pictures on the wall are knocked off by an invisible force and there is a loud clapping noise that draws Carolyn to the basement. When she is thrown down the stairs by a malevolent force and the oldest daughter, Andrea, is attacked by a female ghost, the family must turn to Ed and Lorraine Warren, played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, who are demonologists. They pronounce the house haunted by a demon and set to get proof in order to get an exorcism for the home.
In order to avoid spoiling the film, I won’t go into further detail. Oh who am I kidding, the ending is completely predictable! Wan feels the need to have his last shot be what he obviously thinks is a tense or shocking moment but instead provides no more shock than catching static off a doorknob. The entire ending to the story itself was rushed and was incredibly weak. The conclusion to the demon lasted maybe ten minutes, really didn’t take a whole lot of effort and gave very little detail as to how it was accomplished.
As for whether or not it was scary, it was all jump scares, just like Insidious and Dead Silence. This is why I say Wan’s films are helping destroy horror; his films are nothing but jump scares. People have become accustomed to being afraid of jump scares and thinking that this makes a film truly scary. Horror movies used to terrify. People would pass out in theaters. You could actually step over puddles of vomit leaving a horror film. Films like The Exorcist and The Amityville Horror were really frightening. They were creative, they were realistic and they gave people a reason to keep their lights on at night. Who doesn’t get a bit nervous when camping because of Jason Voorhees? No one wanted to sleep after A Nightmare on Elm Street because Freddy would kill you in your dreams. I won’t lose a wink of sleep over The Conjuring because it gave me nothing to fear except the possibility that I could turn my head and find someone standing really close to me or that maybe a picture might fall off of my wall when it’s really quiet. Sounds terrifying, doesn’t it?
The film ripped off The Amityville Horror, Poltergeist and The Sixth Sense with a not so subtle hint of Insidious and still couldn’t pull off being a scary movie. Despite the decent acting, the story just wasn’t strong enough and the so- called “scares” were no more than mediocre. Anyone who can honestly say that this was the scariest film they’ve ever seen, needs to take a few lessons in horror because Kathy Bates naked in About Schmidt gave me a bigger fright than the entirety of The Conjuring.