If you haven’t seen the Conjuring movies, you have probably seen the ads promoting them. Back in 2013 when I still had access to disposable income and wasn’t in crippling debt due to a mortgage and an awful job market, I had cable and watched quite a bit of TV. It didn’t matter which channel I watched, terrible ads for The Conjuring were on almost every commercial break. They showed images of scared fans in a movie theater and always ended with actress Lili Taylor looking down a dark flight of stairs holding a lantern with two creepy hands clapping next to her ear.
This was back before I accepted horror movies into my heart and proclaimed any product that saturated the advertising market would be forever ignored by myself. Fast forward to Spring of 2015 at a buddies home killing time before a Mastodon concert, I finally watched the movie and didn’t hate it.
Directed by James Wan, a successful (and surprising still young) director who has lots of experience in the horror world. His first feature film was the decent Saw movie which has been buried under 6 (soon to be 7) terrible sequels. He also directed the first 2 Insidious movies, Furious 7, and is currently making Aquaman. He is known for being a horror director but he is as Hollywood as it gets and his Conjuring movies reveal that.
The Conjuring has a good cast, staring Patrick Wilson (Hard Candy, Watchmen, Prometheus, Bone Tomahawk) and Vera Farmiga (The Departed) playing the married couple Ed and Lorraine Warren. The Warren’s are real people whom dealt with the paranormal and helped people get rid of demons and nonhuman spirits. Lorraine claimed to be a medium who could speak with the dead and spirits while Ed was the front man offering support and information about paranormal activity.
The real Warren couple are delusional weridos. None of this demonology or hauntings are real but they provide a fuck ton of material to make a movie universe. The Conjuring movie series will have enough material to last as long as the films continue to make money. A series that follows the Warren’s hunting ghosts which each movie focusing on a different case is a brilliant idea for large series of films.
The Conjuring (loosely based on a true story about a crazy couple) focuses on the haunted home that the Perron family moved into. Roger Perron is a truck driver and is played by Ron Livingston (Office Space, Band of Brothers) and Carolyn Perron is a housewife played by Lili Taylor (Six Feet Under). The 5 daughters varying in age from 2 years old to late teenager are played by Mackenzie Foy (Interstellar), Hayley McFarland, Shanley Caswell, Joey King, and Kyla Deaver. All of the performances from these actors are done well, nothing outstanding, but nothing so terrible it hurt the movie.
The Perron family move into the old home in the middle of the woods and immediately scary shit begins to happen. Cold temperatures and the smell of rotting meat filled the home, the clocks stopped at 3:07 am every night, birds flew into the windows, the family dog was killed, and the youngest girl spoke to a ghost through a creepy toy.
The Warren couple comes to the rescue and helps the family get rid of the presence haunting the home. In the process creepy shit goes down creating a thrilling story with horrific images and situations.
The Conjuring is about as mainstream and Hollywood as a horror movie gets. There isn’t anything wrong with this movie and most of its scares come from developed situations not relying on jump scares. But there isn’t anything fantastic about the movie either. It has great special effects, it is shot well (my favorite shot was towards the beginning of the movie when the Perron family was moving into the home. The youngest daughter was sitting underneath the tree playing with the toy she found and the camera quickly zoomed in on her. That was a cool old school horror movie shot), acted well, and is legitimately scary at times. The Conjuring is to horror movies like what Wonder Woman is to super hero movies. It’s good and better than much of its counterparts, but it doesn’t offer anything interesting and blends in with the rest of the saturated crowd.
It probably doesn’t help that I watched The Blackcoat’s Daughter a few days before watching the Conjuring films again. After being spoiled by one of the most unique and creative horror movies ever made, The Conjuring felt bland in comparison, but it is much better than the ads presented it as.
The ads for The Conjuring 2 were just as plentiful as the first movie. I remember seeing them before every movie I saw in the theater in 2015, on youtube, and even during UFC fights on Fox. The two scenes that were constantly advertised were the panning shot of a room full of crosses where they turn upside down and an old dude zombie walks out of a dark corner, and the swing set scene where the little girl tells Vera Farmiga that scary shit is after her.
The gang is back together in the second movie. Ed and Lorraine are asked by the church to go across the pond and investigate the highly publicized paranormal activity in the Hodgson’s residence in London. A single mother, Peggy was struggling to provide for her 4 children when weird shit began happening in her home. Peggy is played by Frances O’Connor and the children are played by Madison Wolfe (True Detective), Lauren Esposito, Benjamin Haigh, and Patrick McAuley.
Madison Wolfe receives most of the screen time playing the 11 year old Janet who has been infested by a demon presence. The demon speaks through her, forces her to do crazy shit, and completely fucks up the life of the family. This movie is just like the first Conjuring but with an added element of doubt. In The Conjuring, Ed and Lorraine find a spirit and spend the rest of the movie trying to get rid of it. In The Conjuring 2, Ed and Lorraine find what they believe to be a demon spirit but are doubtful to whether it is real or fabricated. They both believe Janet but need definitive proof for the church before they can imitate the exorcism process with a priest.
The Conjuring 2 isn’t bad, but it isn’t great. It is more of the same, good special effects, decent acting, some scary moments, and a set up for more movies. The Conjuring 2 might objectively be better than the first installment, but I didn’t like it as much as the concept and characters weren’t as fresh. It is a very inoffensive horror movie that takes very little risks.
The success of the Conjuring movies have opened up yet another movie universe. In The Conjuring a doll called Anabelle is discussed and plays a minor role in the movie. That doll earned its own movie simply called Anabelle (which was torched on the internet for being bad) and is receiving a second movie set be released in just a few days. In The Conjuring 2 a creepy nun and a fictional character called The Crooked Man make appearances and are both receiving their own movies. The universe surrounding the Conjuring movies is another example of how they will never escape the clinched fist of Hollywood. The movies aren’t bad and are watchable, but since they made a lot of money, they are being exploited and raped of their compelling elements for capitalistic greed.
There are many worse horror movies than the Conjuring films, but there are also many better.