The Conjuring movie poster
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The Conjuring
The Conjuring movie poster

The Conjuring Movie Review

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If you're looking for horror, look no further than The Conjuring, a ghost story so jam-packed with horror clich├ęs director James Wan literally had to pull from every ghost/demon/exorcism movie in existence. Thankfully, The Conjuring is also full of scares and more than a few spooky things to keep you entertained.

The Conjuring really has it all:

  • A possessed doll. The movie begins with a possessed doll, and The Conjuring isn't even about a possessed doll. But possessed dolls are downright freaky, so that's how it begins. Good start.
  • A haunted house. Moving things. Strange noises. Creepy dead children. Sleepwalking. Creepy dead children, because creepy dead children are creepy.
  • An exorcism. Because no one has ever seen a movie about exorcisms.
  • Lili Taylor. Because she needs to redeem herself for 1999's The Haunting.

And in fairness, Wan brings things together pretty well. The Conjuring looks great, with slick cinematography and discrete visual effects. The movie is fast paced and Wan executes a series of solid scares, most notably surrounding a gimmick regarding a "clapping" hide-and-seek game. And with a cast that includes Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Lili Taylor and Ron Livngston, The Conjuring has better acting than most horror movies.

The Conjuring works more often than it doesn't because of its fast pace; Wan rarely lets the audience rest, and even if you don't find much of it scary, you'll appreciate its relentless style (though I could see critics saying otherwise). Despite its intense nature, The Conjuring doesn't take itself too seriously.

On the downside, the movie's more blatant sin is that Wan simply shoves too much into one story. At 112 minutes, the movie feels long. There is no real reason why the possessed doll gets reintroduced in the third act; at the very least, it just adds an extra layer that could have been cut due to time. The climax could have been reduced slightly to get to the inevitable conclusion.

The script also occasionally wavers into cheeseball territory (you can almost see Patrick Wilson cringing in a few scenes toward the end). More importantly, the movie does borrow liberally from other horror movies, including the dreadful The Haunting. There are some elements from Paranormal Activity, The Amityville Horror, The Exorcist and even Child's Play, and it's clear that Wan wanted to hit audiences with something "new" at every turn.

Whether that kind of thing bothers you will likely determine whether you like The Conjuring or not. My guess is that most people won't care and will find it scary; others will stand on a high pedestal and say it's a waste of time. I'm in no need to stand on a high pedestal. While not perfect, The Conjuring is a fun and scary thrill ride worth seeing in theaters.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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