Is something messing with you in your sleep? Are there weird noises around your house at night? Are there sudden, unexplained foul odors at times?
My first question would be, “Are you sure you don’t have a cat?” But of course, such phenomena could only mean something EEEEVIL! in a movie like 2013’s The Conjuring.
I love horror movies and, much like how I am an easy laugh, I am an easy scare. But if there is one staple of the genre which annoys me, it is the tired, easy jump scares employed by movies like this. Such cheap tricks are usually called “cat scares”. Hmm…cats again…
Anywho, the setup here is a large family moves into an old country house where mysterious happenings commence. The children are all girls, most of whom are teenagers, or right on the cusp of becoming one. So, we will have a lot of screaming over such phenomenon in the night as sleepwalking, “there’s somebody standing in the shadow!” and “stop touching me!”, and the family’s first conclusion is a supernatural being must be at work. Hmm….
This movie recycles so much from previous films that I’m not sure it brings anything new to the genre. Let’s see now, there’s a “is something under the bed?” moment, there’s a possessed doll that is sufficiently creepy on its own, there’s a demon-possessed person. An antique music box a little girl finds by the lake reminded me of nothing less than the various items in the basement in Cabin in the Woods though which various malevolent beings are summoned.
The only thing that made me jump was the occasional very loud noise, which is such a low blow that I don’t even consider that to be a true scare. That’s as cheap of a ploy as sneaking up behind somebody and clapping your hands right next to their ear. Sure, anybody is going to jump at something like that, but that’s a lazy way to startle a person.
Speaking of clapping, I will concede the setup and payoff of the “follow-the-clap” game the family plays here is decent. It is basically hide-and-seek but the seeker is blindfolded. When they yell out for a “clap” the hiders have to clap. The seeker gets three guesses, or “claps”. Need to say, the house’s evil spirit will use this to cause mischief.
The aspect of this picture that most surprised me is it is rated R. This is solidly PG-13 fare when taking into account its small amount of blood and complete lack of sexual content and profanity. No, this is the only movie I am aware of that received an R for being “too scary.” Uh huh. That is as much ballyhoo to me as the opening statement stating this is “based on a true story.”
Another lazy trope employed by the movie is its soundtrack. Why is it that, if your movie takes place in the last few years of the 60’s, you are obligated to use one of the following songs, “Fortunate Son”, “Time of the Season” or “All Along the Watchtower” (the Hendrix version)?
Lastly, why is Patrick Wilson in so much fare like this? I found myself deeply confused at one point because I mistook his character here with the one he played in the Insidious series. And that series has run to five films to date while The Conjuring “universe” currently has nine films in it. Why are most of the longest-running horror film series spawned by the more pedestrian efforts of the genre?
Despite all of this, I found the The Conjuring to be average, mainstream horror fare. It just isn’t anywhere near as scary as the hype might lead some to believe. As for myself, I will always chalk up mysterious happens in the night to a hitherto undiscovered cat. Here, however, there may be another culprit. I mean, with all these weird occurrences of high drama at night, who would expect such things to happen in a house full of teenage girls?
Dir: James Wan
Starring Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Ron Livingston, Lili Taylor
Watched on blu-ray