The horror genre has been through an inordinate amount of change, from so-called ‘torture porn’ and comedic horror to the more traditional gothic style. More recently entering the world of the blockbuster with the release of World War Z. This August, the latest offering from the people who brought us Insidious and Saw attempts to once again bring something new to the horror buffet.The Conjuring begins with an over-explanatory dramatization sequence detailing a haunting in 1968, before we are assured that what we are about to see is a ‘real’ story detailing one of the most difficult cases renowned paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren have ever dealt with. Here, the ultimate issue with The Conjuring is immediately evident. Instead of being taken along for the ride, we are bombarded with too much information. Nothing is left to the imagination here.
We meet the Perrons, Carolyn, Roger and their five daughters. The Perrons make the ultimate mistake of uprooting their family and moving to a new home. When strange events take a malicious turn, the family has no choice but to call in the infamous paranormal investigative duo. We learn that there is no easy fix for the family and that they will be forced to confront their evil presence. What follows is a relentless attempt to force the audience into edge of their seat terror.
Both the Perrons and Warrens are charming enough to make the viewer care about them, with Patrick Wilson being effortlessly adorable as Roger. I am unsure how he maintains a straight face despite the Warrens being the most saccharine duo of paranormal investigators imaginable. We get to know both families intimately through a great deal of overtly explanatory dialogue which flies in the face of the old ‘show – don’t tell’ rule.
Director James Wan’s obsession seems to be in taking that childhood feeling of fearing monsters under the bed and applying it to adulthood. Somewhere along the way, Wan seems to have forgotten that what scared us as children existed in our imaginations, and by mapping everything out for us, he prevents us from experiencing true fear throughout. Wan’s specialty is his unique brand of ‘in your face’ horror, the kind that first shocked us in Saw. Unfortunately we have all become immune to its effects and The Conjuring fails to thrill.
Wan’s passion for the horror genre is evident throughout, with nods to movies such as The Amityville Horror as well as his use of the more classic generic tropes. His passion is infectious enough to ensure that the film is entertaining throughout, although probably not in the terrifying way he would prefer.
Going to see The Conjuring is a little bit like taking a trip through a particularly underwhelming ghost train – for the time you’re sitting in the dark, you’ll be having fun and laughing at the ridiculousness of it all, but once you leave you won’t be in any hurry to pay money for the experience again.