May 27, 2018
The Conjuring (2013)
Grade: 54/100

Director: James Wan
Stars: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Lili Taylor

What it's about. Loosely based on a true story. Set in 1971 Rhode Island. The Perron family consists of father Ron Livingston, mother Lili Taylor, and their five beautiful and innocent daughters (Shanley Caswell, Hayley McFarland, Joey King, Mackenzie Foy, Kyla Deaver).

They move into a large isolated house that proves to be haunted. Rather than do something sensible, such as leave, they consult husband-and-wife paranormal researchers Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) and Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson). Lorraine is clairvoyant, and Ed is an unofficial Catholic minister. The Warrens set up shop in the Perron household, and confront the demon antagonizing the Perron household.

How others will see it. When he was only 27 years old, James Wan directed the first Saw movie. It launched a fabulously profitable franchise. Insidious also made a mint on a micro budget. The studios actually dropped some money on The Conjuring, but its worldwide gross was at least 15x its cost. Expect more horror movies from James Wan in the immediate future.

Whether any of these films are better than The Haunting (1963) is besides the point, which is to keep Hollywood in the black, so that the industry can survive the next Will Smith flop.

As for The Conjuring, it was well received by the appropriate film festivals, winning Best Horror Movie at the Saturn Awards and a whopping nine trophies at something called the Fright Meter Awards.

Today at, the film has a spectacular 360K user votes and a high user rating of 7.5 out of 10. The rating does drop modestly with advancing age of the viewer, from 7.8 under 18 to 7.2 over 45. But even the latter grade is lofty for the horror genre.

How I felt about it. The Conjuring reminds me of Poltergeist, the Spielberg-produced blockbuster from 30 years before. Basically, the movie takes an episode in the career of Ed and Lorraine Warren, and fictionalizes it with a derivative plot.

There is a moment in The Conjuring where it is discussed whether the family should simply leave their haunted house. After a lame economic excuse is trotted out, the Warrens state that leaving the house will do no good, because the demon will simply follow the family to their next neighborhood. How do they know this? Of course horror movie characters should leave their haunted house, and turn to plan B if that fails.

Much is made of the fact that The Conjuring is purportedly a family-friendly horror movie, in that there is limited sex, violence, nudity, or cursing. But one could argue that a gruesome body count is the point of the genre, and while we are all glad that the pretty underaged daughters of the Warren family emerge uninjured, we could use more head-spinning and ax-wielding moments, and fewer doors that open and shut at predictable moments.

I like the cast, especially Wilson and Farmiga, but am less impressed with the casting of the wide-eyed daughters, apparently from a child model agency. I dislike the film's burnishing of the image of Ed and Lorraine Warren, who are at best well-intentioned but misguided charlatans.

You, the reader, are old enough to know that there are no demons, except in horror movies where they belong. Grown-ups who pretend that demons exist merely muddy waters that should be travelled by scientists and social workers.