Monday 5 August 2013

The Conjuring [2013]

THE CONJURING is an American supernatural horror movie that was directed by James Wan and originally released by Warner Brothers in July 2013.  It stars Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Lili Taylor and Ron Livingston.  It relates the supposedly true story of husband-and-wife paranormal investigators Lorraine and Ed Warren who in 1971 were asked to look into an alleged haunting at the Perron family home in Rhode Island.  It's not often that a film on general release gets my attention but THE CONJURING has been attracting excellent reviews, unusually for a horror flick, so I thought I had better run the rule over it.

Having watched it I'm moved to ponder just how many films these reviewers have actually seen because to my mind THE CONJURING offered almost nothing that hasn't been done many times before in countless other, better movies.  Indeed, the same director's last film - INSIDIOUS [2010] - is much much better (and also stars Patrick Wilson) but got none of the hoo-hah that this one has enjoyed.  It's basically a haunted house story and while there's nothing wrong with that it is a very familiar set-up so you'd think that the director would feel obliged to come up with something new to bring to the table.  However, what we in fact get is a bunch of over-familiar situations handled with professionalism but no flair.

This is one of those movies that makes you jump but doesn't send any chills down the spine or give you that prickly feeling in your scalp.  Which means there are plenty of shock moments - usually engineered in the editing room - but no fear, dread or atmosphere.  It's curiously constructed too, keeping Farmiga and Wilson off screen for most of the first half hour (bar an irrelevant subplot concerning a separate case) before building to an abrupt, muddled and unsatisfying conclusion.

One of the few dissenting reviews I'm aware of came from horror fan Mark Kermode who said that he went in wanting the film to be great, wanting to be scared, but just wasn't.  I know how he feels; genuinely frightening films are such a terrific experience and yet so few and far between that when you hear of one which promises to deliver exactly that and then doesn't it's a bitter disappointment.  It's not that THE CONJURING is a bad film - the four leads are engaging enough and there's a nice line in humour - but it's achingly average and certainly not worth the attention it has been getting.

Director James Wan and writer Leigh Whannell are the creative brains behind not only INSIDIOUS but also SAW [2004] and its subsequent franchise so they're no mugs but I'm afraid this one is a spurned opportunity.  Far be it from me to tell you what to see but my advice would be to give this a miss at the cinemas (and in my humble opinion horror just doesn't work in cinemas anyway) and rent it only if you must but please don't do so if you've haven't already given INSIDIOUS a go first.  Timely advice, if I may be so bold, because I notice on imdb that INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2 is now complete and scheduled for release in the UK next month.

[stills to follow]

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