Who knows how indie horror flicks like The Conjuring go on to be big hits. I doubt people went to The Conjuring for their summer dosage of Patrick Wilson. I also doubt it had anything to with reviews (The Conjuring was well received) because most people don’t read reviews. Was it just the right place at the right time? The opportunity to duck into a cool, dark theater to hide from the heavy sun? Maybe that’s it, because nothing cools you down like getting the chills.
The Conjuring is a supernatural horror film from Saw creator James Wan, also the director of Insidious, another ghost story with Patrick Wilson. The Conjuring is based on the exploits of real-life paranormal investigators Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga). The story is set in Harrisville, Rhode Island in 1971 and details the Warren’s investigation of the Perron family (Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor) farmhouse after the occurrence of dark paranormal phenomena.
The film acts as both a historical documenting of the Warren’s work in “Demonology” but also adds flourishes of fantasy and mysticism to create an old school supernatural smorgasbord. I use the term “old school” not only to describe the film’s time period but also the methods. The Conjuring is more about atmosphere and what you don’t see then cheap scares. Not to say there aren’t a few BOO! moments but it’s all in good fun. Using a true story as background adds an eerie sense of realism but also provides limitations that work in the film’s favor. No doubt that it does break those limitations from time to time, The Conjuring still works because it never goes too far, it’s a precise and controlled series of scares.
I rather enjoyed the added backstory to the Warrens. We learn of some of their past cases and get a glimpse at their world through a collection of accursed items they keep displayed in their house. Additionally, their investigation techniques that include; cameras, black lights, and various audio devices that provide an intriguing look into a cooky, if not oddly fascinating profession. All that gooble-gobble reminded me a great deal of the 80s classic Poltergeist, which brings me to another point.
The Conjuring adds very little to the already bloated haunted house sub-genre. I appreciate that it’s an adaptation of a true story, it just happens to be a true story we’ve already heard and seen. The execution is effective but plays it too safe. I wanted to see something in The Conjuring that I’d never seen before. Not seeing that made me disappointed but I still had a good time. I just wanted to have a great time. That being said I’m glad I had something worth seeing in this dismal summer season. I guess anything is better than seeing either of Ryan Reynold’s bombs. Now that’s a real horror story.