Today I’m talking about The Conjuring with Victoria from Autodidact in the Attic. I really liked it. Victoria said, “Meh.”
In the first of what I hope will be many point/counterpoint reviews, we’re going to see who’s right. I’ll go first:
For my reviews, I typically don’t care about the writer or director or the pedigree of the film. I don’t really even care about the actors. For me there’s one question above all others: Is it scary?
Scary doesn’t need to be qualified, either. Scary is scary. Therefore, it’s all subjective. What scares me might not scare you. What’s generally the case, however, is that what scares everybody else does not scare me.
So, why was The Conjuring so scary?
First, it had to do with the lighting and the color of the film. It had a earthy vintage feel that made even the most benign scenes darker than they really were. I went into it just feeling that little bit of dread- that something’s not right here. And WE know something’s terribly wrong, but the family does not, so they go about doing normal things.
For some reason, to me, people doing normal things because they are unaware of the menace is a lot scarier than them trying to fight or escape it.
As for the haunting, I think they pulled off the classic haunted house effects extremely well. One scene of note was when the girl on the bed could see the presence in the shadows that neither the audience nor the other little girl could see. It’s like the shark in the water. We know it’s there lurking, ready to strike. It was suspenseful in that way and I found myself getting taken by all the jump scares. All of them. Even the ones I saw coming from miles away.
The Annabelle side story was creepy as hell and anyone who’s ever been around dolls should be able to appreciate it. Although I don’t know why they had to go and make her demonic like that. The original was creepy enough.
Okay, so some of the ghost effects were hokey and I think the possession/exorcism were a little overdone. But you’re talking to about the only person I know who was not even the slightest bit entertained by The Exorcist. Meh. Would rather it have just stayed poltergeist and ghosts. I was actually LESS scared after the demon was revealed.
But overall, I sat and watched this movie and several times I thought, “Damn, this is scary as hell. I’m REALLY enjoying this.”
Therefore, lots of fingers and thumbs.
It’s always interesting to see what criteria another person uses to judge a film by. Thank you for inviting me to do a point/counter-point review with you.
Before starting my part of the review I feel compelled to point out that this film was supposed to be based on a true story and I’m an enormous sceptic. I do not believe in ghoulies or ghosties or three-leggedy beasties or things that go bump in the night. I didn’t know this film was supposed to be based on true events before watching it, but quickly realised when I saw Lorraine Warren was involved.
I point this out myself before anyone can say that I disliked it for that reason. I have a great appreciation for scary movies and this one simply didn’t make the cut for the reasons below.
I’m with Scarydad on not particularly caring about the writer or director or actors if the film works. Because this one left something to be desired I was saddened by the waste of talent of Lili Taylor (similarly wasted in The Haunting of Hill House remake–maybe she just enjoys making horror films). Vera Farmiga (Norma Bates on Bates Motel–watch it, it’s great) does an outstanding job of impersonating Lorraine Warren, I must say. The other actors do what they can with what they have.
I agree that the cinematography was lovely, but I attributed that to John R. Leonetti trying to capture a 70s feel (which he did, in my opinion). It didn’t feel spooky to me, but earthy and vintage, like you said.
The Annabelle story was neither here-nor-there for me, though I wish they had used the actual doll, which was a Raggedy-Ann doll, rather than a cracked porcelain doll. I’ve never been bothered by dolls, so that wasn’t creepy for me. I loved the idea of the Warrens having a room of all the possessed things they’d removed from people’s homes. I wanted to play in there. It put me in mind of Borgin and Burke’s in Knockturn Alley. That didn’t bother me at all so I guess I’m not normal.
Interestingly, you said you disliked The Exorcist (it did nothing for me, either), Lili Taylor said she watched that film in preparation for her role in The Conjuring.
To me, it was a slow, dull film with moments that were scary–the clapping game had a wonderful creepiness to it, the dream Taylor has, one particular moment during the exorcism. I don’t count jump scares, as I consider them to be contrived. Anyone can make someone jump by startling them. If you’re going to scare me, scare me legitimately.
Overall, The Conjuring wasn’t worth the time. There are better, scarier films out there.
You mention that it’s based on a true story. I quibble only because I found it scary in spite of that. I find that “True Stories” are often so far removed from the actual events as to be completely unrelated. (Obviously if the events of the film were chronicled the way they showed, we would have definitive proof of ghosts and demons and all that, wouldn’t we?) So the “true story” tag typically loses points with me.
Jump scares are contrived, sure, and normally I would agree with you. But in this case wasn’t a cat jumping out or something like that. The jumps in Conjuring are meant for the characters and the viewer gets caught watching. I thought they were done well. I didn’t feel cheated or unnecessarily startled.
Possessed or not, dolls are creepy. I don’t dislike dolls, but if I was a demon I would definitely hop into a doll for maximum scaritude. Make it a clown doll for extra points.
Speaking of clown dolls, another haunted house movie comes to mind that used many of the same tricks that The Conjuring did. Are you a fan of Poltergeist?
As I said, the end sort of lost me with the reveal and all the scrambling about. I much preferred the shadows and the wondering what was going on. And the whole time I was wondering WTF, I was properly scared.
Poltergeist is an excellent point. I’ve seen it, but it was so long ago and I was so young–still a young teenager–that I couldn’t compare the two. I know it scared me half to death and that was when Hannibal Lecter and Freddy Krueger were imaginary friends of mine so that’s saying something, I suppose.
Dolls and clowns have never been creepy to me in any context. The Chucky movies just struck me as ridiculous. Fun story: I played a clown in a play once. Because I wasn’t a real clown I wasn’t always ‘on’, if that makes sense. But before or after performances or publicity I’d still be in makeup and some people would point and smile and others would intentionally *not* make eye contact. Grown humans. Blew my mind. Even people I knew would be like, ‘I can’t talk to you in that make up.’ Dude, you’re a professor.
I agree that the end was a disappointment. I really went into the film knowing nothing about it–I didn’t know it was a demon possession film, either. I watched it because it was filmed where I live. Like you I was wondering WTF a great deal of the time, as well, but behind that I was thinking, ‘What utterly uninteresting thing is going to happen to these people now?’
So there you have it. Two very different opinions on a movie brought to you in one review. After hours and hours of grueling deliberation we finally came to the following conclusion:
See The Conjuring because Scarydad thinks it’s scary or don’t because Victoria doesn’t think it’s scary. And as always, share your own opinion in the comments. See you next time.
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