Follow us
Pin It

The Conjuring offers modest thrills 

Rating: **1/2

STARS Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson

Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga in The Conjuring. (Photo: Warner Bros.)
  • Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga in The Conjuring. (Photo: Warner Bros.)

Every couple of years, the American moviegoing public is greeted with a film that instantly earns the enviable tag of "One of the Scariest Movies Ever Made!" This designation used to be reserved for only the most special of terror tales — Psycho, The Exorcist, Alien — but these days, it's a catchphrase free-for-all, without much meaning. Saw, The Descent (far and away the best of the bunch), Paranormal Activity, Insidious, Sinister — the list goes on. (But no Jack and Jill? What the hell?) The Conjuring is the latest picture to manufacture this reputation for itself, and it seems to have taken hold in many moviegoers who are treating it like the second coming of Linda Blair. I suppose it's possible to be shaken to the core by this movie — even if it's really not much more frightening than, say, The Flintstones Meet Rockula and Frankenstone or Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island — but ultimately, it's just one more recycled haunted-house yarn, albeit one that's modestly elevated by James Wan's relatively restrained direction and a roster of characters who are more levelheaded than the usual gang of idiots who populate films of this nature.

Reportedly based on a true story — and if you believe that everything in this film really did happen, then I have 20 acres of NoDa property I can sell you cheap — this examines what paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) consider the most frightening and baffling case of their careers. It's the early 1970s, and they're called upon to check out a house newly purchased by the Perrons: dad Roger (Ron Livingston), mom Carolyn (Lili Taylor) and their five daughters. It's a pleasant enough property, but once the Perrons move in, weird things begin happening. First, of course, they discover the lovable family pooch laying dead outside. Then birds begin slamming into the house. Then all the clocks stop at 3:07 ... every night. Strange clapping sounds, unexplained bruises all over Carolyn's body, doors creaking open by themselves — time to call the Ghostbusters! Or, in a pinch, the Warrens.

To his credit, Wan relies on establishing and maintaining mood more than engaging in cheap scares or buckets of blood, but there's only so much that can be done with a premise as overexposed as this one (is there anything less cinematic than watching people monitoring cameras and tape recorders?). The filmmakers try to generate some tension with a leering doll that's no match for Trilogy of Terror's Zuni doll, a guest appearance by the title apparition in Mama, and even the Pixar ball being rolled across a floor, but the return on investment is minimal — the concession prices will scare more people than any of these devices. The Conjuring boasts top production values and an admirable refusal to condescend to its audience, but we really should be demanding more from our horror flicks.

  • Pin It

Comments (3)

Showing 1-3 of 3

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-3 of 3

Add a comment

Creative Loafing encourages a healthy discussion on its website from all sides of the conversation, but we reserve the right to delete any comments that detract from that. Violence, racism and personal attacks that go beyond the pale will not be tolerated.

Latest in Reviews

Readers also liked…

More by Matt Brunson

Search Events

Recent Comments

  • Re: Rogue One: The Dark Side of the Series

    • Return Of The Jedi is a good movie and a nice conclusion to the series…

    • on January 7, 2017
  • Re: Passengers: A Space Idiocy

    • Aint that sexist, what you are saying is a women can never desire a man?…

    • on January 4, 2017
  • Re: Passengers: A Space Idiocy

    • You misunderstand, or weren't paying attention (shouldn't a movie reviewer pay attention?) to the reason…

    • on December 31, 2016
  • More »

© 2017 Womack Newspapers, Inc.
Powered by Foundation