The Conjuring

Some phenomena just can’t be explained. No, I’m not talking about the phenomena of ghosts or demonic possessions. I’m talking about the phenomena that is the current, mystifying love for The Conjuring.

The Conjuring is surely a movie you’ve already seen 12-15 times before. I don’t want to trash this movie because it isn’t for me. I shouldn’t have been in that theater to watch it, and that’s my fault. I’m married so I can be talked into bad decisions like wasting money to see Jurassic Park in 3D. I’ve joined lives with a woman who has deeply ingrained paranormal experiences that guide her love for any supernatural movie.

Seriously, some real freaky, unexplained shit. So it’s easy to see why The Conjuring would appeal to her much more. I can’t even begin to tally all the tired, dreadfully boring ghost/possession movies that I’ve been forced to watch over the last year or two. Just to name a few: The Last Exorcism, The Last Exorcism Part II, Mama, Paranormal Activity 4, The Possession, and Sinister.

The Conjuring definitely isn’t the worst movie, but it certainly isn’t the scariest either—that honor goes to R.I.P.D. because multiple movie executives thought that pile of shit was worth a multi-million investment. Personally, I don’t feel that The Conjuring is deserving of such a high level of praise given the warmed over pile of shit that is the movie’s subject matter. On a positive side, The Conjuring isn’t a torture porn style of horror movie like the Saw and Hostel franchises so at least it has that working in its favor.

However, I would compare The Conjuring to another commercially successful, low budget horror movie like Paranormal Activity. And I don’t mean that as a compliment. We all know how awful the Paranormal Activity franchise has become with a consistently worse product being slapped together and put out into the American populous each year.  And now we may have to endure a franchise arc for The Conjuring.

A lot of the positive reviews I’ve heard about The Conjuring heap praise for its ability to terrorize the audience. Really? The Conjuring has a number of jump scenes that try to scare the audience. But these always have an adverse effect on me because there’s no substance between these scenes, which creates large swells of quiet boredom that build up to a cheap, nonessential non-resolution. And when your movie manages to be little more than poorly strung together jump scenes, you have a significant issue.

At least you would if you’re interested in making a quality movie. My issue with The Conjuring and other movies of its ilk is that I am not convinced that quality is an aspect of focus that bears any importance. In the midst of the summer blockbuster season, The Conjuring stands out because it is signficantly less expensive than its competition. That’s not to say that The Conjuring is cheap. Rest assured, the production values are great and the filmmakers accomplish to set a creepy tone using the ‘70s as the context.

When a movie like The Conjuring costs such a comparatively lower amount, why wouldn’t movie studios bank on that type of low-risk investment? It has to be so much easier to turn a profit on a movie like The Conjuring instead of Pacific Rim because of the production budget and the massively different ways each has been marketed. On top of a nearly $200 million budget, Pacific Rim has poured substantial cash to market it (incorrectly) to its prospective audience whereas The Conjuring has benefitted from a huge word of mouth effect thanks to our collective desire to have the shit scared out of us.

The Conjuring is a visually pretty, well-made movie, but it does not to aspire to be anything more than a commercially successful horror story. Sometimes it pays off just to lay it up and set up your next shot instead of just going for it with only one attempt. To me, The Conjuring doesn’t accomplish anything that we haven’t already seen (over and over and over again) from this movie genre.

DollSadly, the creepiest part of The Conjuring probably occurs in the opening sequence where the two paranormal investigators (played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) are called on to investigate a doll that may be possessed by a demonic entity. The doll is fucking creepy, and that note hits home for me as I was grew up in a home where my mom had a bunch of those strange, soulless porcelain dolls. After this brief encounter, the true focus of the film is introduced: a family troubled by a parnormal presence.

I know you’re going to be surprised, but this movie has a house in the middle of fucking nowhere. And here’s a shocker, it was surprisingly cheap for a family who puts all their money into it…only to find out some disturbing information about the property and previous inhabitants. The family has had their share of problems, but this is their new start. Sound familiar?

Ron Livingston (best known as Peter from Office Space) is showing off his best bad porn star hair, and he serves as the highlight of the movie for me as the clueless yet concerned oaf husband who is just doing what he can to provide for his family. If you haven’t managed to avoid the onslaught of commercials for The Conjuring, then the scariest scenes with the most tension have already been ruined for you. There are no characters that display any depth even though the acting performances are all surprisingly solid.

I had a hard time finding The Conjuring to be anything but a disappointment. I’ve seen it before and I’ll see it again. And in the time between, I’ll see more of it on TV with shows like Ghost Hunters, Ghost Adventures, Dead Files, and everything else that touts muffled electronic recordings, unverifiable noises, and mist formations as proof that we’re not alone and the dead are trying to contact us.

Maybe they are.

That question is exponentially more interesting than anything broached in The Conjuring. Can we now just collectively focus on this question and have a discussion rather than create another slightly different view of the same thing? A month from now, I challenge you to tell me five things that have stuck with you from The Conjuring. You’ll be lucky if you can come up with anything other than that doll’s haunting face.

2.5 stars out of 5

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