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.
Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, respectively) 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 understand their role.
Ed and Lorraine do not deal with the supernatural presence themselves. Rather, they intend to collect evidence, inform the church, and the church will send a specialist to deal with the presence if necessary. 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 is certainly dangerous, but Ed and Lorraine may be this family’s only shot at survival.
The Pros & Cons
|The Pros||The Cons|
The Warrens (+6pts)
The Perrons (-2pts)
The Collection (+3pts)
Too Easy (-2pts)
Pro: The Warrens (+6pts)
I liked these characters and liked the filmmakers’ decision to focus on the paranormal experts, as it gave the movie a more mysterious vibe. Ed and Lorraine are 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. Being a duo of paranormal experts allows each character to serve a unique purpose.
Ed is the more professional, more sociable character, while Lorraine is more compassionate and mysterious. This allows each character to take the lead in different scenarios. Ed is friendly which gets people’s guards down, while Lorraine uses her compassion to learn more information. Lorraine then uses her mysterious ability and inclination to figure things out, while Ed swoops in to perform rituals, such as exorcisms, to defeat paranormal entities. The two characters make an effective duo, they have an interesting dynamic that makes you want to learn more about them, and they had two great actors (with Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) that pulled these roles off really well.
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 do not want them to be killed, because they are 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. You know how in a crime procedural, you have the main characters (the cops and investigators), then you have the random victims who the main characters are trying to help? Well, the family in this movie felt like those random victim characters. It was not that I wanted them to die, but I was certainly not as emotionally invested in their survival as I would have been if they had gotten more focus.
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, etc. — 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, he did such a good job at building the tension that 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.
Con: Predictable (-4pts)
Unfortunately, despite the filmmakers best efforts, this movie's biggest issue was its predictability. The plot is one that we have seen in countless horror movies before, and this one goes exactly as you would expect it would. 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, despite James Wan's excellent tension building.
This would have been a great movie if it was the first of its kind. Unfortunately, it came after countless movies just like it, and it followed all of the same beats as its predecessors. It was as if the filmmakers found a "typical horror movie formula", then followed 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 movie that I felt I had already seen many times before.
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 have collected various artifacts and haunted objects from the cases that they have 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 their experience. The collection was mysterious, memorable, and spooky, but it also 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 far more mysterious. Their collection did not get a ton of attention, but the attention that it got was effective, and it left me wanting to learn more about this duo of demonologists.
Con: Too Easy (-2pts)
The ending of the movie just felt a little too easy, in my opinion. The characters spend the entire movie building up tension, as they learn about the entity in the house. The filmmakers setup that the entity is dangerous, and that Ed and Lorraine should 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.
I will not say whether or not they succeed, but the whole thing just turned out to be conveniently easy for the writers. I do not want to say anything too specific, as I do not want to spoil anything. I just thought that after all of the build up that we got, the ending felt a bit too typical, and too easy. This ultimately made it feel anti-climactic.
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, that 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 horror storyline, James Wan did an excellent job of building the film’s intensity. I mean, even the jump scares that I saw coming felt intense. 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, 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 intense horror scenes that left me on the edge of my seat, this movie ended up being decent nonetheless.