The thrill of the unknown, the quintessential shock factor, that palpable sense of terror, the suspenseful atmosphere– we human beings love to get scared, to feel that adrenaline rush through our veins. And, that’s one of the primary reasons why the horror movie genre is so popular and why making the perfect horror movie is so challenging.
Released in July 2013, James Wan’s The Conjuring was a critical and commercial success, garnering praise for its atmospherics, performances, screenplay, direction and musical score. Director James Wan, a well-known name in the horror movie domain and co-creator of the Saw and Insidious franchises, worked on a story by Chad & Carey Hayes, which centers around a haunting investigation by renowned American paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorraine Warren.
Below is the plot summary, followed by a precise analysis of individual elements of the film.
The Conjuring: A Synopsis
The film dwells on purported real-life supernatural incidents experienced by the Perron family in their Rhode Island home in 1971. Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren were called in to investigate a series of strange, disturbing events like the sudden death of the family dog, supernatural encounters, mysterious sounds and even attacks by unseen entities.
Ed & Lorraine arrive and deduce that the house may need an exorcism but the permission of the Catholic Church and gather more evidence. They unearth startling information about the house and the plot, learning of a woman named Bathsheba Sherman, an alleged witch who sacrificed her newborn baby to the devil and then hanged herself.
The investigators set up cameras and sensors to track paranormal events & keep on gathering more information about the property. Unfortunately, mishap strikes as the wife of the house, Carolyn Perron, is possessed by the evil spirit. Lorraine encounters the spirit of a woman who killed her child after Bathsheba possessed her, and the investigators push for permission to exorcise the house urgently.
Carolyn abducts her children and tries to kill her daughter Christine. Ed, Lorraine and her team restrain her and decide to conduct the exorcism with urgency. Ed begins the exorcism but is overwhelmed by the powerful spirit. Things start to take a turn for the worse until Loraine intervenes and reminds Carolyn of her love for her children. Carolyn fights her possession, and Ed completes the exorcism, banishing the spirit from her body.
The film engrossed and scared the audience, raking in the big bucks. But is it a horror masterpiece like The Exorcist? A critical analysis is necessary to understand that.
Analyzing The Movie Elements
Movies like The Conjuring demand substantial suspension of disbelief from their viewers if it needs to be enjoyed to the brim. However, the following analysis looks into the elements of the movie in a critical and unbiased manner.
The premise is nothing out of the ordinary. A harmful and vengeful spirit looking to harm anyone who trespasses on her property has been the subject of numerous other movies & books. The Salem witch trials are being hinted at as a background incident. They have been used as the subject of horror stories & films for years now. Given that the movie is based on the investigations of the Warrens, viewers will likely notice striking similarities with the Amityville haunting movie.
A troubled family moving into a haunted house in a remote area is a common theme in numerous American horror stories.
Set Design, Costumes & Make-up
The house and its surroundings are impressive. The haunted house is akin to its carnival counterpart, with squeaky noises and scars at every corner. The location and the sets, along with James Wan’s cinematography & direction, help create the perfect atmosphere for thrills & are major contributing factors in the movie’s success.
Costume, make up, character appearances and the production design have a distinct 70s feel though that does not contribute much to the story in any way, other than hinting at the timeline.
Acting is mediocre at best, but Lili Taylor’s (Carolyn Perron) portrayal of a possessed woman fighting for her sanity deserves mention. Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson did not have any scope to test their acting mettle in the movie, other than looking scared or shocked with disbelief. Dialogs are unimpressive, and their delivery was nothing extraordinary. In some cases, the delivery is exceptionally corny and out of context.
Horror movies are not known for being masterpieces that showcase great acting. The case is the same with The Conjuring. The rest of the characters had nothing more to do besides being scared out of their wits or crying out in shock & horror.
Cinematography, Screenplay, Atmosphere & Direction
These are the elements where the movie comes into its own and makes watching it worth the while..
Kudos to James Wan for creating a tense atmosphere, using shadows, lighting and different shot types cleverly. Though the loud noises and jump scare becomes predictable after some time, the cinematography saves the day. The spooky atmosphere created by director James Wan keeps viewers at the edge of the seat. Jump scares and nerve-wracking encounters with ghosts up the ante further. Critics may scoff at such clichéd techniques to create tension and illicit scares, but the public consensus indicates that audiences love these old school horror tactics.
Lights and shadow play a huge role in this movie and help develop the scary tine & atmosphere, which ups viewer anxiety, tensions & anticipation.
James Wan’s direction is praiseworthy, with the screenplay reasonably impressive. In addition, he employs and uses several horror movie tropes in the most effective way possible.
- As mentioned, the cinematography, set design, and makeup are significant factors that contributed to the movie’s success.
James Wan used different kinds of shots to deliver scares, and most of them served their purpose, as evident from audience reviews. Inventive camera angles, chokers, eye-levels, flashes, tight shots, etc., showcase Wan’s potent directing skills. Besides the camera work, the slow-burning pace of the screenplay, with some unique twists & turns, works well with the audience.
Here’s a flash shot that elicited a genuine scare.
- Things, however, fall apart with a weak climax involving an exorcism that looks haphazard & ridiculous. The director probably attempted to pay some homage to “The Exorcist”. Unfortunately, Wan fails, and the climax seems rushed. The resolution to the problem seemed too easy and made it look as if the spirit wasn’t that strong enough in the first place or hadn’t faced anyone like Carolyn or the Warrens.
All in all, The Conjuring is an excellent movie to get hair-raising chills. Despite its flaws, the film impresses with a genuinely spooky atmosphere and pretentious jumps scare moments. It is a fun one-time watch and is significantly better than numerous horror movies in recent times.
And that rounds up this little article. Hope it was informative enough for readers. Keep visiting this page for exciting articles, analysis and much more.