In director James (Insidious, Dead Silence, Saw) Wan’s latest film, stars Patrick (Watchmen, Hard Candy, Lakeview Terrace) Wilson and Vera (Bate’s Motel, Orphan, The Departed) Farmiga depict real-life paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorraine Warren, in a case that was too shocking, too scary, that it had never been revealed to the public. Until now. The Conjuring promotes itself as the scariest movie of all time and that it will leave viewers on the edge of their seats, and though it does not quite live up to its promises, it is still a significant improvement over a majority of the genre’s recent releases.
The special effects are top-notch and the acting of the main characters is Oscar-worthy, which is something that has not been seen since The Exorcist hit theatres, which was 40 years ago. But is it truly scary? This reviewer does not think so. In fact, it is actually the weakest of Wan’s horror films in that regard. But this is by no means a negative review. Besides, just because a horror film isn’t actually scary is not enough of a reason to judge it harshly. The fact that the casting was so perfect that it almost doesn’t seem like a movie at certain parts completely makes up for the fact that there really weren’t very many scares. Yes, it is spooky and yes, if it really is a “true story” as the producers would have audiences believe, they were put under certain restraints in the making of the film. That being said, it is one of the better scripts in recent years. Not just in the genre, but in the medium altogether. There are no scenes where audiences will be shaking their heads or laughing in disgust at the actions of the characters. Motivations are clear and decisions, though brash and sometimes poorly-thought-out, are never unrealistic.
The predictability of a film of this genre is another downfall of most lesser movies, but Wan uses his cast and crew in a way that only he can to ensure that the viewer is never bored, always questioning, and never truly feeling safe. It would be unfair to categorize this film as terrifying, but unnerving would definitely be a great adjective. The facial expressions and mannerisms of Farmiga and Wilson as the Warrens make up for the lack of jumps and thrills and perhaps audience members with more active imaginations will find this to be one of the most terrifying films they’ve ever encountered, but for the most part, it’s just a well-crafted, excellently-acted good old fashioned ghost story. And as for the rating, some viewers may feel overwhelmed with the classic elements of a horror movie, but if you’re going for gore and profanity, you’ll be sorely disappointed. The R-rating is simply there to warn viewers that spirituality plays a role in the climax and some younger viewers might not be able to differentiate between what is real and what is creative licensing.