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Movie Review: The Conjuring

by Bob Garver

July 22, 2013. When I see horror movies in a theater, one of my favorite moments is when everybody screams and then everybody laughts. Usually they’re laughing at each other for screaming, and of course sometimes they’re laughing at themselves for the same reason. This happened at several points during “The Conjuring,” and to be fair, the scream/laughs are just as fun here as with any other movie.

But the problem was that most of the time I didn’t scream. I didn’t gasp. My eyes didn’t bulge. I skipped right over all the parts where I should have been scared and just laughed. I don’t say that as a macho brag (and in fact I spent more time than I care to admit trying to cover various head holes,) but to convey that as a horror movie, “The Conjuring” is somewhat silly.

The film follows a team of paranormal investigators as they try to make sense of a rural family’s haunted house. Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) are brought in to help Roger and Carolyn Perron (Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor) when freaky things start happening in their new home that terrify them and their five kids. Some research shows that the house used to belong to a devil worshipper who died under unpleasant circumstances and since then many people in the area have died under unpleasant circumstances.

The Perrons want to stay in the house for financial reasons that seem trivial when compared to death by demon. The Warrens do what they can, but things get tricky when Carolyn becomes possessed and their interference leads to the haunting of their own home. 

The scares are of the standard haunted house variety. Things move without being touched, mysterious bangs interrupt quiet scenes. We get glimpses of unfriendly figures that the characters can’t see and if they do see them they think it’s a bad dream. One of the Perron children sleepwalks, another has a friend that may be invisible but is by no means imaginary.

The Warrens keep the world’s creepiest doll locked in a case in their home and it’s inevitable that at some point the case is going to be found empty. Unique to this film is a Perron Family game called “Hide and Clap” where a blindfolded seeker follows the sound of clapping to a mischievous hider. For purposes of this film, the seeker can be led into a trap or they can follow clapping to a place where there is no family member to clap. You know it’s a tame horror film when more than one of the key scare scenes revolves around clapping. 

The film’s R rating seems unfair. Yes, there’s blood during an exorcism, and the house’s previous residents are either yucky or they had something yucky happen to them. But there’s very little actual violence and the language never gets too coarse despite the rising tensions. I don’t think a teenager who can handle one of the nastier PG-13 horror movies won’t be able to handle this one. It makes me wonder if the backers of this film didn’t actually want the R rating. They’re sacrificing a huge chunk of the teenage audience, but they’re getting a crowd that wants something violent, a crowd that will pay before they realize that the film can’t deliver on what its rating implies. 

“The Conjuring” isn’t a particularly effective horror film. It keeps implying that something truly terrifying is right around the corner, but it’s almost always a disappointment. This movie has been done a hundred times before and it will be done another dozen times before the year is through. “The Conjuring” gets claps and creepy toys right and that’s about it. 

One and a Half Stars out of Five

“The Conjuring” is rated R for sequences of disturbing violence and terror. Its running time is 112 minutes.