The Conjuring

Logline

Seasoned paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren confront malevolent spirits haunting the old farmhouse of the Parren family in 1971.

Why we went

AJ flat out refused, so I brought my other better half, sister Paige. There we bought too much in concessions (true to form) and subjected ourselves to two hours of chills (because we’re apparently both masochists). How did it go, you say? I thought you’d never ask!

Why it worked

Call me a skeptic. I don’t believe in things like ghosts or demons or the afterlife. I find it ridiculous that demonologists can gain any kind of credibility at all. And the fact that exorcisms are recognized as a legitimate practice by any religion is a whole shitload of crazy that I’d frankly rather not step in.

Generally, I think that sort of supernatural haunted house jazz can be explained in a rational way. Old pipes, strong winds, light tricks, screaming neighborhood cats in heat – that sort of thing. And that being a fundamental part of my personality should mean I’m excluded from this movie’s target audience.

Or so you’d think.

There’s a part of me that will always crave movies in this genre, and there’s a simple reason for that. An expertly executed story can make me believe in anything. I mean, that’s the whole point, right? To find a narrative that is so finely connected to a human experience, it becomes authentic?

James Wan, whose past directorial credits include Saw and Insidious, really gets the psychology of fear. He knows the sort of anxiety a well-placed camera can inspire. He understands that a slow escalation of creepiness delves into the psyche with far more permanence than a handful of fruitless false scares. He’s aware that there are few ways to raise the stakes quite like endangering family – particularly when children involved. Which is why I am susceptible to his brand of fear.

It helped that this movie also borrowed liberally from the school of 1970’s horror. The story is set in that era, for starters. The effects are largely in-camera, with very little CG intervention. And the disorienting panning and zooming effects utilize every inch of space in a way that’s simply underseen in the age of green screen. Forget a single wall of projections, Wan’s audience is surrounded.

Bottom Line

With practical in-camera effects, quiet tenseness in favor of cheap shocks, and a modest budget (by Hollywood standards), The Conjuring offers expertly crafted classic horror in spades.

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