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Movie Review: "The Conjuring"

There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

Theatrical Release: 7/19/2013

Theatrical Release: 7/19/2013

Synopsis

Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) are experienced demonologists. They have dealt with their share of ghosts and demonic possessions, so Carolyn Perron (Lili Taylor) turns to them when her family is in trouble. She believes her house is haunted, and that the supernatural presence means to hurt her and her children. Ed and Lorraine agree to help on behalf of the church, but they make sure Carolyn understands their role.

Ed and Lorraine do not deal with supernatural presences directly. Rather, their job is to collect evidence and inform the church, and the church will then decide if they need to send a specialist to deal with the presence. Ed and Lorraine get to the house and quickly determine that there is definitely a dark, dangerous presence in the home. With no time to wait for the church, Ed and Lorraine decide they must try to deal with the dangerous entity themselves. The entity is powerful, and it is certainly dangerous, but Ed and Lorraine may be this family’s only shot to survive.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

All movies start with an average score of 75pts, points are then added or subtracted based on each Pro and Con. Each Pro or Con is designated points, ranging from 0-10, to convey how significant these Pros or Cons are.

The ProsThe Cons

The Warrens (+6pts)

The Perrons (-2pts)

Intense (+8pts)

Predictable (-4pts)

The Collection (+3pts)

Too Easy (-2pts)

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Pro: The Warrens (+6pts)

I liked these characters and I liked the filmmakers’ decision to focus on the paranormal experts, as it gave the movie a more mysterious vibe. Ed and Lorraine were a husband and wife demonologist duo, which gave them a unique dynamic that set the characters apart from the paranormal experts from similar movies. Lorraine is also gifted with some psychic ability that gives her a bit of an edge when trying to solve difficult paranormal cases. Ed was the more professional, more sociable one, while Lorraine was more compassionate and mysterious.

Each character served an important purpose in this duo. Ed was friendly which got people’s guards down, while Lorraine used her compassion to learn more information. Lorraine then used her mysterious ability and inclination toward figuring things out, while Ed swooped in to perform rituals such as exorcisms. The two characters made an effective duo, they had an interesting dynamic that will make you want to learn more about them, and they had two great actors that made these characters charismatic and memorable.

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Con: The Perrons (-2pts)

The filmmakers made the unique decision to focus more on the paranormal experts and less on the family being haunted. This decision gave the movie a unique perspective for a story that more or less has been done many times before. The side effect of this decision was that the family that was being haunted felt underdeveloped. The actors who played the family delivered strong performances, but the lack of focus on these characters as a family made me not care about them as much as I should have. You did not want them to be killed, because they were an innocent family, and because that would mean Ed and Lorraine failed, but I did not have much of an emotional connection to the characters or their fates. I felt about them the same way I feel about random victim characters in a crime procedural. I cared about them as much as I would care about a random victim I had no connection to, but I was not really invested in whether or not they made it out okay.

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Pro: Intense (+8pts)

I would not go as far as to say this movie was scary, but its horror was definitely intense. It had plenty of effective jump scares, plenty of creepy paranormal things —haunted dolls, ghosts, possessions, and more—and plenty of tension building up to it all. I think without James Wan’s effective tension building, the horror in this movie would have felt very average. However, the director did a great job at building the tension, and even the more predictable jump scares felt intense. Again, I would not go as far as to say that the movie was scary, but it was very effective at building tension which kept me intensely glued to my seat for the movie's duration.

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Con: Predictable (-4pts)

Despite the filmmakers best efforts, this movie's biggest issue was its predictability. The plot was one that we have seen in countless horror movies before, and this one went exactly as you would expect it to. Despite the filmmakers telling the story from a unique perspective, the plot was essentially the same as the countless other haunted-house-possession movies. The jump scares were just as predictable as well, even with James Wan's excellent tension building. This would have been a great movie if it was the first of its kind. Unfortunately, it was as if the filmmakers found a formula named "typical horror movie formula", and they chose to follow that formula as closely as possible. The movie certainly was not bad, it was actually far from it, but the filmmakers ended up delivering a story that I felt like it came straight out of a cookie cutter, which was a bit of a disappointment.

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Pro: The Collection (+3pts)

The Conjuring showed Ed and Lorraine Warren’s haunted items collection. Throughout their years dealing with various supernatural entities, Ed and Lorraine collected various artifacts and haunted objects from the cases they worked on. This collection was really effective in giving these two characters a sense of history, and it was effective at getting the audience to buy into them as experts. The collection was mysterious, it was memorable, it was spooky, and it teased future movies in the franchise.

While Annabelle got some attention in this movie, the doll would go on to be the focal point of a bunch of movies. Annabelle and the Warren's collection definitely benefited each other. The collection was responsible for setting up Annabelle for future movies, but Annabelle was responsible for making the Warren's collection feel more mysterious and more dangerous. Their collection did not get a ton of attention, but the attention that it got was effective, and it left me wanting to learn a lot more about this duo of demonologists.

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Con: Too Easy (-2pts)

The ending of the movie felt a little too easy, in my opinion. The filmmakers spent the entire movie building up tension, as the characters were learning about the entity in the house. The filmmakers setup that the entity was dangerous, and that Ed and Lorraine could not wait for the church before trying to perform an exorcism. They even setup the risk of having Ed and Lorraine try to perform the exorcism themselves, as they were not very experienced in doing so. I will not say whether or not they succeeded, but the whole thing just turned out to be conveniently easy for the writers. I just thought that after all of the build up that we got, the ending felt a bit too easy, which ultimately made it feel anti-climactic.

Grading Scale

GradeCategoryPoints

A+

Amazing

95-100

A-

Great

90-94

B+

Good

85-89

B-

Decent

80-84

C+

Average

75-79

C-

Watchable

70-74

D+

Bad

65-69

D-

Terrible

60-64

F

Garbage

45-59

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Grade: B- (84pts)

The Conjuring was a decent horror movie, but it fell into a lot of typical horror movie tropes. It was your typical haunted house story, with your typical possession and exorcism. It also had its share of your typical jump scares, which any horror fan will see coming from a mile away. Fortunately, the filmmakers delivered a movie that was more good than it was bad.

Despite the jump scares, and the predictable story, James Wan did an excellent job of building the movie’s intensity. The movie also had a unique perspective by making the paranormal experts the main characters, instead of the family that was being haunted. Ed and Lorraine Warren gave this typical story a unique dynamic. They were mysterious, they had a fascinating supernatural collection that left me wanting more, and they were played by two great actors. If you think of a generic horror movie, then The Conjuring checks all of those boxes. However, with interesting main characters and plenty of intensity that left me on the edge of my seat, this movie ended up being decent nonetheless.

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