Length: 112 minutes
Release Date: July 19, 2013
Director: James Wan
Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson, "Insidious") and his wife Lorraine are paranormal investigators who open the film with their latest case, which involves a haunted doll. After explaining that the doll is actually a conduit, the film jumps to the two talking to a classroom of people about their experiences. Lorraine makes a joke about people calling them frauds, which is funny given that most of their cases turned out to be frauds.
We then meet Roger and his wife Carolyn (Lili Taylor, "The Haunting") and their five daughters who just moved into a new home. The first night in their new house, they leave the dog outside, and one of the daughters finds the dog dead the next morning. Most of the activity seems to come about when the youngest daughter discovers an old spinning toy that lets her talk to her new friend Rory. The daughters begin seeing weird things in the house or feeling people tugging on their feet, and Roger discovers a cellar filled with old furniture and junk that someone blocked off.
The activity gets so bad that they resort to sleeping together in the living room, and Carolyn decides she can't take it anymore. She approaches the Warrens after another speaking engagement, and though they initially refuse her case, they change their mind after she begs them. As soon as they get there, Lorraine "senses" the presence in the house, and the duo decide to bring in some help to find the truth behind the haunting.
No matter where you go, you're bound to see a review that calls "The Conjuring" the scariest film of the year. I even read a review that said it would make you nervous about going home alone or trying to fall asleep. The truth is that the film really doesn't bring anything new to the genre. It had one scene that made me actually shriek, and that scene involved hands coming out of the dark and clapping right behind the mother. The rest of the film? Eh.
"The Conjuring" really plays like two different films. The first is the story of a family trapped in a haunted house. Like the Lutzes in "The Amityville Horror," they paid too much for the house and can't move without losing more money than they can afford. The moments that take place in the house are fairly creepy and left me feeling uneasy. Ron Livingston, who plays the father, and Taylor are really great in their roles, and the younger actors do a great job too.
The problem with the film is that the other plot is prodding and even a little boring. Once the Warrens decide to "help," it turns into any other horror film. Since the Warrens are very religious, they find proof that a "witch" once lived in the house and scarified her seven-day old son before killing herself. Lorraine makes sure to tell us that she was a direct descendent of one of the "witches" killed in Salem during the seventeenth century, so you know she cursed the house. I guess Lorraine never paid attention in school when we learned the true story of the Salem witch trials.
Those haunting moments, including the one that made me yelp like a little girl, were sadly missing from the second half of the film. They naturally find a bunch of connections that the house has to women who killed their kids and themselves, and they manage to find a hidden passage and other things that the family never once noticed in the entire time they lived there. Once it reaches the point where Wilson must preform an exorcist on the mother, I just wanted the film to be over, but unfortunately, there was still a good 20 minutes left.
"The Conjuring" isn't a bad film, but it received way too much hype in the weeks leading up to its release. Wilson, who was so good in other films, is terribly miscast here, and it doesn't help that he gets a truly poor story. Apparently, Lorraine saw "something" when working on another case, and now he goes out of its way to try and make her avoid a lot of cases. Shoehorn in a storyline about their daughter being obsessed with the possessed doll from the beginning, and it's just too much for a film that isn't even two hours.
While the film did have a few good scares, many people in the audience when we saw it actually laughed at some of the "jump scares," and towards the end, people even started talking over the characters. I read a comment from someone saying this was the scariest movie he ever saw in his entire life, but the only one who felt that way when I saw it was the four-year old some woman decided to bring with her. "The Conjuring" had its moments, but sadly those moments were few and far between.