Purportedly based on true events, The Conjuring tells the story of the Perron family, who seek the help of demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren to rid their house of some seriously troublesome malevolent force. Kids are yanked out of bed, doors open and close, knocks are heard when there ain't no one knocking...pretty standard modus operandi for a
Well, everyone is flipping out because the film is, quite simply, designed to scare you. At times, it works- I mean, noises coming from somewhere in the dark is super effective, duh. If the subject matter is treated seriously- and The Conjuring takes itself really, really seriously- then the audience is bound to respond. One sequence in particular had me...hmm, how to describe, hmm. Okay, if The Conjuring had a hand, one sequence would have had me eating right out of the palm of it: the scene that finds Perron matriarch Carolyn (Lili Taylor) investigating those noises in the dark. Super effective! Hooray!
But man, I dunno. The rest of it seemed so calculated, so obvious, a bit like one of those haunted houses that pop up around Halloween. You know, you walk through it and it's dark and creepy and you're clinging to the shirt of the person in front of you and your stomach is twisted up in knots...but then part of you knows exactly how everything will play out. You see are dark corner and you think, "Okay, so that's where the person will jump out at me." You walk by a closed door and you know it's going to pop open. There's nothing wrong with this, and it's fun to get on board and just go with it. But ultimately, rather than burrow under your skin and stay with you, it's sort of fleeting and cheap and hollow. Like some of my best relationships! Heyoooooo!
It's to the film's detriment that Wan establishes a standard routine to the scares: there's a lure, a false scare, and then the real scare, ahh! It doesn't help that he seems reluctant to let a moment linger. Instead, there's always a music sting or a jump scare to wrap things up. On the rare occasions he allows a scene to progress slowly, it's terrific: when a terrified young girl whispers to her sister that there's someone standing in the dark behind her bedroom door, it's the stuff of childhood nightmares played out. I wanted more of that, the creeping dread, and less of the startles, if you know what I mean.
I have no idea whether or not Ed and Lorraine Warren are a couple of sheisters, capitalizing on peoples' fears and gullibility. Mind, I say "I have no idea" while knowing that they undoubtedly are...it's just that I find a world where demons are a possibility much more interesting than one where they are not, so a part of me will always entertain the notion that the Warrens were on the up and up. Regardless, The Conjuring doesn't quite know what to do with the couple, and this is where the film really falls apart. We get some backstory (which also allows James Wan to once again confront his fear of creepy-looking dolls) and see them lecturing, sure, but there are only hints at how their demon-busting ways have affected their lives. There's too much on the Warrens, but also not enough. We know God brought them together, as they say, and we know that they've seen some shit...so why are they so friggin' boring?
The Conjuring is essentially set up like a porno: the scenes between the "good stuff" are total throwaways, the ones you fast-forward through to get to the sexy times (or, in this case, the scary times). When Carolyn attends one of the Warrens' lectures and then tries to convince them to investigate her house, it is some "Who ordered the sausage pizza?" shit! Basically, it's this:
Carolyn: Some weird stuff is happening at my house. Will you come look?
Ed and Lorraine: No, sorry...
Ed and Lorraine: Okay.
And the fact that somehow, Lorraine has done some research and solved every single mystery and figured out every single clue and explains it all to Ed in 15 seconds? You get the idea that the film was originally a bunch of scary ideas, and then right before shooting, everyone realized they needed some scenes in between.
Girl, and don't even get me started on that exorcism.
Okay, do get me started.
So, exorcisms are a big deal, right? There needs to be research and documentation. Permission must be granted from on high (if not from the Exorcist Committee of the Vatican or what have you). They are serious business and only once in a while are they ever performed. When they are performed, it's by, you know, an exorcist. The Conjuring makes note of all of these facts...and then craps all over them. Here's how you can perform an in-home, priestless exorcism today, according to this movie:
1. Believe in God
2. Read from "the book"
3. Sprinkle some holy water
4. Remind the possessed person about something nice
That's it! The possessed person will then barf out the demon, problem solved. I don't see why Fathers Merrin and Karras got so worked up about the MacNeil affair and why it took such a heavy toll on them, or why they had to take breaks. That shit looks easy!
I know, it seems like I'm harshing on this movie. Maybe I am a little bit. I thought the "so this one Salem witch was a real witch, honest" angle to be somewhat distasteful. As I said, the scare pattern took away much of its power, and I spent the last 20 minutes or so just waiting for it to be over. I did have some fun with it, but I'm sorry to say that my hands are decidedly outside of my pants over The Conjuring.
EDITED TO ADD: For real, can someone explain to me how this was a demon and not just the ghost of the witch? Is it because she was all "Go, Satan!" so he made her a demon? Or, what, ghosts can't possess people and the film needed a possession? I am for real confused.
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