After seeing The Purge I wrote that 2013 seems to be the year of horror, but not really. I pointed out that I’ve liked some stuff already this year, but whatever was coming next didn’t look particularly interesting or good. One film I had my doubts about was The Conjuring. Well, I was wrong. I was so, so wrong and I’m glad I was.
Want me to get right to it? The Conjuring is the best horror movie I’ve seen in years. That line is what really matters when it comes to a review of a horror movie, right? I haven’t enjoyed a movie this much since The Strangers. I loved Evil Dead and Cabin in the Woods, yes, but those didn’t “scare” me the way this did. I found Insidious to be scary and a lot of fun too but it falls apart in the third act. I enjoyed Sinister in the moment but after thinking about it, that film is riddled with too many cliches to make it even slightly enjoyable. So, again, The Conjuring is the best horror movie I’ve seen in years. It works on several levels but first and foremost: this is just a really well made movie.
This is James Wan’s best work to date. Period. I was very much looking forward to the film falling apart in it’s third act just like Insidious but it didn’t and I’m so proud of him because it so easily could have. Wan avoids everything that could have made this movie a laughable mess and uses the better conventions of the genre to his advantage to make a great movie. When I say the movie is the most fun you’ll have had all year, I mean it. My audience went wild. You know those reaction shots of the audience they will show in the trailers of a horror movie? Okay, that was my audience and it was amazing. See this movie opening night because it will make the experience even better, I promise. The movie is fun because it embraces it’s setting and uses it to it’s advantage. Taking the horror element out of the film, the film *mildly* works as a drama and a comedy. There are intentional laughs in this which is so welcomed. Wan corrects whatever mistakes he made in his previous films making this his most mature work; you can really see his growth as a filmmaker. Again, the third act might be the strongest part of the entire film which is very rare for a modern horror movie. When the situation gets a little – what’s the word? possessed – Wan actually holds back and doesn’t expose the audience to more then they should see and it’s perfect. Too often in horror we are shown too much of the monster and it either a) makes the film laughable or b) less scary because we now know too much. This does not happen here. It reminded me a lot of Halloween in that sense.
As I said earlier, this is just a really well made film. From the fantastic title sequence, to the shots of the house, to the direction it’s a beautifully shot and edited movie. I want to see it again just to look at it because it’s so pretty. We also get a stellar performance from Vera Farmiga but that is a surprise to no one because she can do no wrong. What’s surprising is that this is a great performance in a modern horror movie. If the movie has one fault it’s the script. It’s a little weak and sometimes the dialogue is corny but given the time period it’s set in, it’s not too offensive. It also feels a little too been there done that, but that has more to do with the story it’s based on than anything else: Attention horror fans: one of Vera’s final lines is a wonderful nod to another infamous haunting.
What scares you is subjective. Just like what makes you laugh. Some people find The Big Bang Theory hilarious. I do not. So you may see this and it may do nothing for you but I guarantee you will have fun because Wan made a fun, throwback, horror movie. The film doesn’t reinvent the wheel and don’t go in expecting that and if you do you know nothing about movies or the horror genre for that matter. And Wan relies on too many on his own personal conventions for this to be anything more than it really is which is still a really great horror movie. One that – in a few years from now, after it does gangbusters at the box office – might be considered a modern classic. Ya, I went there.