31 Days of Horror: THE CONJURING

When you hear the name James Wan, you don’t think ‘psychological horror’–rather, wonderfully schlocky ‘gore porn’; a la the movie that introduced the director to horror junkies worldwide: SAW. Pleasantly surprising, The Conjuring demonstrates Wan’s skills and versatility as a director of scares.


Based off the personal accounts of famous paranormal researchers and demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren, The Conjuring tells the tale of the demonic hauntings that plagued the Perron family as they moved into a Victorian-era house in 1971. Carolyn Perron pleads with the Warrens to investigate the home after her and her five daughters experience strange noises, whispers, physical marks, locked doors, and so on.

The Warrens, being the only non-ordained demonologists recognized by the Catholic Church, inspect the house (with equipment and techniques that, though slightly more primitive, will be familiar to anyone that’s watched paranormal reality shows such as Ghost Hunters International) and conclude that an exorcism but be conducted to free the Perrons of the oppressive entities.

The plot is simple, but effective, with layers of spirits and demons that tell a story of suffering and Satan-worship on the land surrounding the house. What’s impressive about The Conjuring is its consistent beat, with not a single slow or dull moment in the entire film. While there’s some unintentionally goofy moments, there’s also genuine humor  and lightness that breaks up the scares without making them too predictable.

There’s an unfortunate misogynistic bent to a bit of the haunting, with references to the witch hunts of the late seventeenth century taken at face value rather than as the murders justified by paranoid sexism that they were. While still deplorable, it’s such a small part that it’s practically forgettable.

Gores & Scares

The Conjuring is best appreciated within the context of horror as a genre. In many ways, it feels like an homage to the best horror movies of the late sixties and seventies such as The Exorcist and The Amityville Horror. Its cinematography calls back to such films, with long shots and a generally desaturated color palette.

What made those films classics was not gore, though, but the psychological and emotional toll of demonic possession and absolutely fantastic atmosphere. The Conjuring emulates that skillfully, taking its time and slowly building up its tense moments, a slow burn to the movie’s best scares and climax.

It teeters on the edge of predictability and laughable, yet stands just shy of that the majority of the time. Arguably, Annabelle is the worst part of the movie. The actual doll it’s based on is a Raggedy-Ann, and their unassuming visage would’ve definitely made for a more frightening subplot than something that looks so obviously designed to be Mega Creepy.

Nonetheless, the rest is great. Jump scares are well-executed, the lighting and minimalist soundtrack maintain the tension throughout the whole film, and the the climax’s exorcism doesn’t fall short. It’s scary.


The Conjuring shows a real love for classic horror films, and anyone who enjoys the atmospheric haunts of such movies should be sure to enjoy it. Folks who shy away from the more gore-filled side of horror will also find in this James Wan flick a lot to love.

4 out of 5 stars

4 out of 5 stars

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Categories: Movie Reviews


Professional grump. Writes media criticism at Whines on Twitter a lot. Likes rice.

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