Unreal Movie Review: The Conjuring


It’s the story of an ordinary family living in an ordinary house plagued by very extraordinary events.

Unfortunately, they made a rather ordinary horror movie out of it.

The Conjuring brings together two of horror’s icons, one an expert in fiction, the other an expert in the “real” supernatural, if you can be convinced such a thing exists. The first is director James Wan, the man behind the original Saw and the surprise ghost story hit Insidious. Here’s he’s telling the story of the a different sort of icon, real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, whose most famous case you might have heard of. They called that one the Amityville Horror, and now we’re promised another of their investigations that was supposedly the worst they ever endured.

Like so many other horror films today , we’re treating to an opening that claims the film is based on a true story, and a conclusion that shows that these were indeed real people. It’s what happens in the middle that’s just a little bit fuzzy.


“So what is it that you’d say you do here?”

Roger and Carolyn Perron (Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor) move into a remote country house in Rhode Island which is priced at a steal for a working man who has to support a family of seven. The Perron children are five, count ’em five, daughters, whom you won’t know by name by the end of the film, only by relative height or hair color.

Soon enough, they run into a teensy little problem with their newfound abode. It’s haunted, or possessed, or some combination of the two. Things go bump in the night, and eventually things start going *CRASH* in the night, and then it’s time to call the ghostbusters.

That would be the aforementioned Warrens, played here by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga. Ed is the only non-Catholic demonologist in the world, and Lorraine is a clairvoyant whose constant battles with spirits are starting to leave her drained. Immediately the Warrens discover that the demonic disturbance in the house is very real, and they trace the history of the evil to the previous owners of the house. Unfortunately for them, their curiosity piques the interest of the malevolent spirits, and they find themselves under siege in addition to the Perron family.

The problem here is story. The Conjuring is a very, very cut and dry horror film about a spooky house infected by ghosts, and never becomes anything remotely interesting. This is the “true story” chain around its neck in action. Yes, these people all existed, as did this case, but no one was literally flying around a room and ghosts weren’t playing peekaboo in mirrors. It’s too implausible to be a “true” true story, yet in trying to stick to some semblance of the actual events, it’s also too plain to be an engaging horror film.


Vera Farmiga REALLY does not like this box.

Everything here is well shot and scored by Wan, but it’s just something we’ve seen several hundred times before in the genre. 1) Spooky house terrorizes unsuspecting family with minor annoyances like closing doors or stopping clocks. 2) Spooky house escalates things until paranormal investigators are called who set up cameras and spectrographs everywhere. 3) Spooky house does supernatural battle with the occupants.

There’s just no dressing to liven this up at all. The central mystery of who is haunting the house is revealed nonchalantly midway through the film, and is as stereotypical as everything else I’ve mentioned. And even with that explanation, it’s never quite clear if the spirits being fought are victim ghosts, murderer ghosts or good old-fashioned demons, and the film contradicts its own mythology much of the time.

There are really cool elements here that could have been exploited to make the film much more gripping. The Warrens have a “demonic object” room for example, created from artifacts from all their cases which has the potential to be awesome, but is instead used in barely a scene or two. Again, the film is chained to pretending this is a true story, and can’t deviate too much outside the events that “actually took place.” Though if anyone was ever really flying around the room like a star of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, I’ll eat a crucifix.

Movies like this can’t have it both ways. Either stick to the letter of the true story and understand you can’t photoshop in demons to an event where they didn’t exist. Or, the more preferable route, just invent your own script and go nuts with it, which is what Wan did with Insidious and that was a much, much more interesting and creative film.

There’s just nothing new to see here. Not one thing. Every scare tactic or demonic foe has been seen elsewhere in a dozen other horror features at this point. I suppose The Conjuring wraps all the tropes up in a nice little package, hence the critical acclaim, but in no way is this anything approaching a memorable horror film. Wan’s past work, or even a recent horror entry like Sinister, takes the same concept and does it much, much better. What do these films have in common? They’re original, and that goes a long way in the genre.

2 out of 5 stars

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  1. I was very impressed with the conjuring, it’s the first actually scary movie i’ve seen in a long time. (and no, i don’t think sinister was scary)

  2. The Conjuring was way better than Sinister. You and Roger Ebert need to put down the crack pipe… It was scary point blank. Sinister was a great film but this was better

  3. I walked into “The Conjuring” hoping that this film would scare the living daylights out of me. Something that would leave me emotionally spent after the lights come up. “The Conjuring” is the film that does exactly that. Ignore the based on a true story tagline. This film is scary and will scare the crap out of you.

  4. Sinister was laughably silly but I agree with you on Insidious. The thing I liked most about The Conjouring was the ending. There was a actual resolution to the story. Not some dumb wink and nod that the bad guy is still active and will soon be in a sequel, like the very dumb non-ending to Sinister.

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