ByAlexander Diminiano, writer at
Film critic and cinephile. Written over 600 reviews at Cinemaniac Reviews since July of 2011:
Alexander Diminiano

The Exorcist didn't scare me. This did.

First off, a note on the genre to which The Conjuring belongs. The amount of fright or tension I actually experience during a horror movie is momentary, if at all. For example, A Nightmare on Elm Street. It didn’t scare me at all. What did was the fact that Freddie Krueger was a child molester and murderer. The Lovely Bones explored the same topic, but perhaps because these topics affected the entire movie, I couldn’t sleep after watching it. Contrast with The Exorcist, a horror movie, not to mention, the one most often considered the scariest ever. I saw the uncut version, and I didn’t find it anywhere close to terrifying.

So when I say that The Conjuring shook me up from the beginning, all the way to its intense climax, you could guess what kind of praise I’m giving it. For the sake of ethic, I won’t compare this recent horror to The Exorcist other than to say that the adrenaline rush is relatively similar. But even in that, it goes without saying that The Conjuring is a modern classic. (And to think that you’d have to look hard for an anomaly; this was an impressive taker at the box office.) Few others prefer to innovate their horror. It’s easier to steal it. James Wan takes a contrarian look, and if anything has been said from his success with Saw and Insidious, The Conjuring will be remembered.

It is of note that this is the same James Wan whose Saw was received with mixed reviews, and his following Dead Silence and Death Sentence were panned without hesitation. In less than nine years, he’s come to something, well, spooky. This is well written horror, from the minds of Chad and Carey Hayes. It’s no different than Wan’s last visit at the haunted house movie, but it’s ten times more authentic. The many rooms of the house, the strolling camerawork, the paranoid but self-assuring characters, the period setting (1971)–they all push us a little closer to believing that this actually is "Based on a true story." The cast does their part, too. The Conjuring delves into not only the victims’ story, but into the story of those who investigate these strange happenings. They’re a married couple, well rendered by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga. Wilson has worked with the director before, but his character here is completely different (and much more likable). Farmiga, continuing her recent success in the horror genre (TV’s Bates Motel), plays her role with even more excellence.

We see the story through the eyes of these two characters. It’s a large house, but we feel trapped. It’s a quiet house, but it definitely isn’t calm. There’s a “why” to all of that, and it doesn’t emerge for a while; we don’t even see anything for at least thirty minutes. Our familiarity with the horror genre is used as an advantage in creating suspense. Only to enhance it is the music, which deserves more than just a mention. You know the kind of music you’d hear leading up to the moment he or she opens That Door Which Obviously Has Something Murderous Behind It? That’s the kind of music that creates tension in The Conjuring. Consider it an irony, because James Wan doesn’t set up for cheap, superficial startles. He wants to flesh out the scares, and that he does.

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