16) The Conjuring [8.0]

Tells the true story of Ed and Lorraine Warren, world renowned paranormal investigators, who were called to help a family terrorized by a dark presence in a secluded farmhouse. Forced to confront a powerful demonic entity, the Warrens find themselves caught in the most horrifying case of their lives. (2013)

When I was a child, I was so afraid of scary movies that I couldn’t pass the horror section in a Blockbuster Videos. I’ve come a long way since then, fully embracing the awesome power of horror films. As the franchise boon began again in the last generation, a general fatigue set in. There were some fairly original entries into the genre, but for the most part, it was all tried and trued. Though The Conjuring borrows from it’s predecessors, it’s a genuinely frightening, old school horror movie that does away with a factor that does in most of these films today: an overuse of CGI.

The whole movie falls apart if we don’t believe in the paranormal investigators, as played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga. If they come off as parodies, are played too seriously or even too lightly, the audience has no foundation to care about what happens. I was frustrated by the hints of a past incident involving them, but that only speaks to how eager I was to find out what had happened. Though I was concerned that the film was hinting towards what would’ve been an obvious payoff involving the couple, thankfully, James Wan and company never heads in that direction.

Between the practical effects, believable performances, and escalating scares, The Conjuring is a fine example of how important pacing is in horror. A lot of the usual scare tactics are used–creaky floors, opening doors, objects appearing in the mirror–but for some reason, they each feel somewhat deserved when used. There isn’t much violence on display, which is a testament to how well The Conjuring works. From what I understand, this will now be the first of a franchise, including some spinoffs. My hope is that whatever comes next doesn’t fall victims to the franchise curse, and keeps a lot of the elements that made this work so well, while also trying something new.

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