The Conjuring – James Wan

My tolerance to horror cinema has waned over the years. Sufficing to say that I have managed to sit through an entire film alone and unmoved, never the after-effect a nagging issue. Not since seeing a subtitle-free Hideo Nakata’s Ringu (1998) on Star Mandarin, more than a decade ago. And that Hollywood, as much as its filmic efficiency in the production line scary movie, attempts to reinvigorate a genre by the bloody slash-em-ups and possession-themed rehashes.

James Wan’s The Conjuring (2013) is a deviation from the contemporary scary-by-violent approach to horror cinema, meanwhile practically repackaging a formula that has been its staple ever since Linda Blair’s head did the three-sixty. The film starts with the investigation of a demonic doll named Annabelle by real-life husband-and-wife paranormal research team Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga), who, also famously conducted the sweep-around of the notorious Amityville House in upstate New York.  Then it centers on the Perron family, who moves into a Rhode Island farmhouse and experiences a garden variety of supernatural occurrences that eventually warranted the Warren’s help. This incident is where the film grinds itself to, slowly and carefully; the terror is staged—in small terrifying increments, yet well defined.

Wan ups his credibility as a filmmaker with The Conjuring, although one cannot deny the air of his previous film, Insidious, permeating in the creaky wooden floorboards and dark basement of the Perron habitat. What Wan manages to accomplish in doing is basically preserving the sinister atmosphere hover around the entire film, like the annoying demon that keeps the family on the edge every night. By bestowing the film the image of documentary and the shifting of perspectives, he tells it without the apparent monotony of straightforwardness, the narrative skewed effective.

The Conjuring lives up to its promise of horror, despite the several TV spots and marketing overuse—betraying anticipation for possible audience pull. Yet, I think, its vehemence to familiarity—of the genre in question—though not as fresh-faced as it can consider itself a modern riffing of William Friedkin’s The Exorcist (1973), is primarily the reason of the film’s method in bridging the chasm of tepid consternation.

Nevertheless, is it good? For some reason, it is. But to classify it as another Friedkinian derivative, comparatively as a barometer for the numerous exorcism movies (The Devil Inside, The Last Exorcism, etc.) that festoon the Hollywood horror, The Conjuring can hold a candle, figuratively. Of course, the film is not without the obvious flaws—for instance, Wan’s proclivity of incorporating the necessary sound effect is excessive as it competes with his visual direction to arrive at the desired terror—intimating Insidious all over again—or quite possibly his take on the slasher genre with Saw. Aside from that and the rapid character development, probably the unwritten requirement for a horror movie, Wan has transcended his talent a notch-up in this case, through the use of almost-subtle trepidation.

 I liked The Conjuring for its pretend verisimilitude; the irony of true story washed down in both creative liberty and Wan’s avoidance of the narrative stereotype. The film recognizes the vulnerability of substance, a sterilization of truth at the expense of shock delivery, but does little to compromise on the apparent storytelling. There are would’ves and should’ves and could’ves that might have made the film better, but for that, exactly, is actually what makes it a worthwhile see.