The Conjuring

I saw The Conjuring on short notice because I couldn’t find a theatre that was showing The Way, Way Back nearby and I had to see something.  Now I’m wondering if it’ll end up on my Top 10 of 2013.  I want to get that out of the way right up front so that you can just judge away.  Stop reading now if you want, you already clicked on the website so we have your ad revenue and I’m fine with parting ways.  Besides, I don’t like it any more than you do; but a whole bunch of things about The Conjuring forced me to go from skeptically frowning to pensively optimistic to completely along for the ride.

 

I don’t go see a lot of horror movies.  Most of them aren’t good and I’ve learned to squeeze all of the “so bad it’s good” bullshit that I need out of things like my social life and diet, so when I see a movie I either want it to be “so good it’s actually good” or at least “so ok it doesn’t make me angry.”  It’s not enough to be so predictable and sloppy that for a second I get to feel like I’m undeniably superior to something anymore.  Likewise, I’m not interested in watching you point at how bad other horror movies are and pretend you’re above them just by be being self-aware enough to know that you suck.  I’ve had enough meta.  Now I just want people to stop caring either way whether or not what they’re doing is unique and focus on doing it well.

 

Like fifty other horror movies released this year, The Conjuring is about a family that goes someplace isolated and gets tormented mercilessly.  It’s slightly different in that their tormentors are supernatural instead of creepy people in masks but that only removes it from the recent wave of crazy-people-kill-you-in-a-cabin movies just enough to put in the slightly less recent wave of ghosts-kill-you-in-a-cabin movies.  Whether it’s with crazies or ghosts, people have been making movies that play on our fear of being isolated from society for a while now.  The Conjuring is no different from any of them in that regard.  It’s just done really well.  The past director of Saw and future director of Fast & Furious 7 teamed up with the writers of Baywatch Nights and made a horror movie that I completely enjoyed.

 

As long as I’m saying things that I even I can’t believe, I’ll throw it out there that the direction of The Conjuring is impeccable.  It doesn’t completely avoid the pitfall of jump scares mixed with loud noises but it does them well and they’re never pointless.  A lot of horror movies will try to sucker punch you with the classic “loud bang that turns out to be nothing.”  If they’re real douche bags they’ll follow it up with the even worse “louder bang that now totally IS something.”  The Conjuring never sucker punches you.  It lets you get your guard up, makes you feel like you know what’s going to happen and then slips right past your defenses.  It also does a great job of knowing when to blow the lid off and when to keep things small.  It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a horror movie that was ok with giving you a few breadcrumbs to follow.  Maybe it’s just digital technology and the sentiment that if you can show it you should, but there’s still something to be said for giving the audience just enough that they fill in the rest with a whole bunch of fucked up shit you couldn’t ever have thought up.

 

Whenever The Conjuring did blow the lid off, it fucking went for it.  At points it encroached on action movie territory, with a team of heroes trying to battle through a house filled with an almost comical amount of ghosts.  Throughout the movie, the “spirits won’t let me open this door no matter what” trick is used pretty constantly.  At a certain point a character decides that he’s sick of that and blows the door open with a shotgun.  If there is a point where The Conjuring loses you, that would probably be it.  It’s bordering on genre-bending and in a lot of ways it goes against the momentum they’ve tried to build up with all that fancy directin’ stuff they were doing earlier.  Whether or not the bigger moments are too much is something you can decide for yourself.  Personally, I like that a horror movie picked an ending and went with it.  It’s difficult for supernatural things like possessions to have a satisfying climactic end.  Usually they just kind of leave you thinking “Oh, I guess it’s over now.”  The Conjuring avoided that by adopting the pacing of an action movie and once it decided that was what it wanted to do, it did it unabashedly.

 

I would not begrudge you for thinking that I’ve championed this movie too much.  I kind of hope to one day begrudge myself the very same thing.  For now, I think The Conjuring was excellent.  More importantly, I am even more excited for Fast 7.  James Wan was given the job of creating a hacky, seen-it-before horror flick and pulled out every trick in the bag to make something just a little bit better.  Now he just has to do it with cars instead of ghosts.  I cannot express how important the Fast and Furious franchise remaining ridiculous and awesome is to me.  To put you in the ballpark, I would gladly say that Justin Lin is “passing the torch” to James Wan or that a group of movies about a group of street racers slowly turning into superhuman road warriors is a “franchise.”  It’s just something I’ve come to look forward to.  The Conjuring made me even more excited about it and that’s all I can really ask of a movie.  I give the conjuring a solid 3 stars and Fast 7 all of my heart and soul.

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