Want to Play ‘Hide and Clap’? The Conjuring (2013)


Want to Play ‘Hide and Clap’?

The Conjuring




The scariest thing about James Wan’s surprising hit ghost story The Conjuring surely must be what it tells us about the power of advertising.  Indeed, given the success of this film it must be no less than terrifyingly demonic.

Yet that can’t possibly be the whole story, because word of mouth has been just extraordinary.  In fact I was looking forward to it with enormous anticipation, expecting a genuine fright-filled ride on a rollercoaster.  Man, was I about to be disappointed.  Which isn’t to say that it’s a bad film.  It’s not.  Indeed, it’s as well-made as anything you’re likely to see in the genre.  Coupled with a solid cast of decent actors I should be giving this a rave review.  It’s just that I expected a hell of a lot more.

Maybe the people who are raving about how frightened out of their wits they were had never actually been to a horror film before.  Because one thing is for certain:  if you are a fan then absolutely nothing in this is going to come as a surprise to you.  It’s so derivative that it’s nearly off the charts.  You’ll see references to everything from Poltergeist to The Exorcist (of course) and in the case of some lifts from Robert Wise’s version of The Haunting you’d have to wonder when homage becomes outright theft. I finally gave up mentally listing every movie tapped into.  In fact Wan even references his own much better (and underrated) earlier film Dead Silence with this movie’s demon doll.  Although that’s probably unfair:  the amount of films to deal with ventriloquist dummies are numerous.  And stick one of those wooden yokes in front of me and I’m going to get creeped out every time.

The Conjuring is based on the true story—sure it is—of paranormal investigators Lorraine and Ed Warren (Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson) who are called in to a secluded house that has just been bought by Carolyn and Roger Perron (Lili Taylor and Ron Livingston) who bring with them their family of five girls.  A family of five girls when you’re still a relatively young couple?  Jeez, there’s a horror film all on its own.

Things start to go bump in the night almost from the start.  And let’s be honest, if you’ve  watched even a few ghost stories then you know that if the pet dog is refusing to cross the threshold then it’s time to ask for that deposit back.  And by the time that you find that there’s a boarded up opening to a creepy old cellar then it’s time to say to fuck with the deposit, I’m legging it out of here.  But of course the families in these movies are made of sterner stuff than I am.  So we start the predictable round of creaking doors opening and closing by themselves (no one ever oils a door in these films);  kamikaze birds flying into the side of the house; clocks mysteriously stopping at the same time every night; children with invisible friends;  thumps that come in threes and spooky music boxes.

You name it, Wan and his scriptwriters Chad and Carey Hayes throw it into the mix.

I really think that all concerned were probably quite taken aback at just how successful this film has become at the box office.  And good luck to them.  As I say, the cast is solid and James Wan has done other enjoyable horrors, including the original Saw, Insidious and the aforementioned Dead Silence.  And the twin scriptwriters were responsible for one of my many guilty pleasures back in 2005 with the wonderfully sadistic remake of House of Wax.  Yes, the one with Paris Hilton.  There’s just no accounting for taste, is there?  In terms of sheer unease and spookiness I can’t see how this touches The Others or last year’s ghostly tale The Woman in Black.  Now that was creepy.

So best wishes to all concerned and I note that a sequel is already under way.  I like to see these films make a few shekels because it means that I can look forward to more.  I only hope that next time there are a few real scares of the ‘clap and hide’ variety, which was very effective here.  I just get lost when the bodies start levitating, hanging from ceilings and dragged around by the hair.  And the finale with the exorcism is almost as ludicrously over-the-top of as last year’s The Rite with Anthony Hopkins hamming it up like no one’s business.

Remember, I said almost.


Author: Charley Brady

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  1. Probably the most hyped horror film for many a year and like you my expectations were high going in as I’m a huge fan of the genre.

    I agree it was a decent enough horror flick but lacked any real jump scares, I can only surmise that teenage girls spook a lot easier than middle aged men hence the hype I suppose?.

    The much underrated “Dead Silence” from the same director was a much spookier vehicle altogether.

  2. Don’t know what it’s like in your neck of the woods, Patrick, but the Eye Cinema in Galway carries the following message:

    ‘Please note that this movie displays strong psychological horror in a possession/exorcism setting and some bloody imagery.”

    Sad person that I am, that is going to make me want to see it every time! Which is what I mean by the power of advertising to which I’m as prone to fall as the next idiot.

    Interestingly a lot of mainstream critics seemed to like this–even Christopher Tookey, who can often be quite scathing. I think it was him that pointed out that in the ‘real-life’ account two of the girls were reluctant to leave the house because they had become quite attached to the spirit.

    Now THAT would have been an interesting take!

  3. Baffling what these critics were watching, currently has an 87% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and 7.7 on IMDb.

    I think there was a similar type warning outside the Newbridge multiplex, talk about an over exaggeration?.

    I wonder what warning they would have for Martyrs if it was given a re-release?.

  4. An 87%?!?! What, an ‘eight’ followed by a ‘seven’? The mind boggles.

    For ‘Martyrs’? Hah, the Legion of Decency or the equivalent would have had to take out a full page ‘Stay Away or Have Your Morals Destroyed’ ad. Which might have been no bad thing. Some more people might have got to watch it!

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