Dueling Review – The Conjuring (2013)
Written by: Chad & Carey Hayes
Directed by: James Wan
When one opinion isn’t enough, a battle must be waged between two reviewers with opposing viewpoints. Who comes out victorious? You, our faithful readers, decide. This is a Dueling Review.
Reviewer #1: Ross Tweedy
The Conjuring tells the true story of Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga), world-renowned paranormal investigators who are called in to help a family terrorized by a dark presence in a secluded farmhouse in Rhode Island. Forced to confront a powerful demonic entity, the Warrens find themselves caught up in the most horrifying case of their lives.
- Cinematography – Nice looking film. Wan and his DP make each scene visually striking.
- Acting – Solid performances throughout, from Wilson to Livingston.
- Lack of Originality – Nothing new. No original scares or new ideas of demonic possession.
- Unimpressive Effects – Middle of the road effects throughout.
- Failure to live up to its advertising – Amazing trailer.
The Conjuring, a film by James Wan (Insidious, Saw), is a mediocre possession flick that never really goes beyond the ‘jump’ scares. The film looks great and plays well to the era in which it is based. Wan and his DP have a good eye for detail, but the problem is that what they do well, in terms of setting, they lack in cool special effects and make-up for the demonic and possessed throughout the film. The acting in the film is good and for the most part the actors do what needs to be done. No one particular person stands out, but on the flip side, no one brings the film down.
The biggest stand out from the entire film ended up being its campaign and trailer. It may sound crazy but the person who cut the trailer together should get much more work. They made the film look like the coolest flick to come out in the last few years.
Overall, the film is a middle of the road, ‘jump’ scare flick that delivers nothing new, despite solid acting from its cast throughout.
Reviewer #2: Andrew Cate (That Other Raimi Brother)
- Period Details – From the costumes to the production design, Wan & company truly capture what it must have felt like to be a member of the Perron household during the 1970s.
- Scary – Although many fans complain about the tendency of horror filmmakers to rely on jump scares, what makes them work in The Conjuring is the presence of a filmmaker who knows how to present them. From the girl atop the wardrobe to the terrifying nurse who pops up at inopportune times, Wan knows how to milk every second of tension before finally letting the camera glimpse the sight of the previously unseen horror.
- That Creeptastic Doll – Dolls tend to scare me, but this one…*shudders*.
- Capitalizing on the Horror Genre – Another tendency amongst horror fans it to bemoan the lack of originality in any new horror film that gains any amount of critical acclaim. My question is, “Why does everything have to be original?” Although I’d argue that the craft and care Wan has put in to The Conjuring certainly sets it apart from others in the supernatural genre, just because the subject matter has been done before doesn’t mean a filmmaker is incapable of crafting a perfectly entertaining and terrifying flick using typical genre elements and horror tropes.
- The Cast – James Wan’s ability to cast supremely talented actors should not be lost on anyone. Getting actors the caliber of Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson is a get for any filmmaker, let alone one in the horror genre.
- I got nothing.
Now just because I have no negatives to list for The Conjuring doesn’t mean I think it’s a perfect film; it’s not. What it is, however, is an engrossing period supernatural horror flick that’s willingness to scare and entertain in equal measure is near impossible to ignore. While it doesn’t ‘reinvent the wheel’ as many better critics before me have stated, what it does do is embrace the best elements of the horror genre.
James Wan has certainly come a long way from his break-out hit Saw. That film, although an entertaining flick that I liked overall, contained abhorrent acting and relied on gross-out tactics rather than scares. With Insidious and now The Conjuring, it’s safe to say that Wan’s supernatural films succeed because they fit his capablities as a director to a tee. Through his work with his cinematographers and editors, Wan proves himself to be a master of not only holding on shots for the exact right amount of time, but also of making sure the audience is peering up at the big screen through tightly clenched fingers.
The Conjuring is the perfect match between material and filmmaker. It may no re-invent the genre, but not every new horror film has to when it’s as entertaining and frightening as this one. If the rumors are true, I look forward to following the Warrens on many more paranormal investigations in the inevitable sequels.
Who won the duel? Post in the comments and slay the competition!