Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Lili Taylor, Ron Livingston, Shanley Caswell, Hayley McFarland, Joey King, Mackenzie Foy, Kyla Deaver
Chad Hayes, Carey Hayes
Before there was Amityville, there was Harrisville. Based on the true life story, The Conjuring tells the tale of how world renowned paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren were called upon 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.
$41.855 million on 2903 screens.
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Latin Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1
Runtime: 112 min.
Release Date: 10/22/2013
• “Face to Face with Terror” Featurette
• “A Life in Demonology” Featurette
• “Scaring the ‘@$*%; Out of You” Featurette
• DVD Copy
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The Conjuring [Blu-Ray] (2013)
Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 24, 2013)
In July 2013, Warner Bros. released two films. Going into that month, the smart money would’ve bet that the expensive “tentpole” action flick Pacific Rim would dominate the box office, while the low-budget “R”-rated horror tale The Conjuring would come and go without much of a dent.
Although Rim didn’t bomb, it barely made it to $100 million in the US and turned into a significant financial disappointment. On the other hand, Conjuring became a pretty nice hit. Up against higher-profile releases like Turbo, RIPD and Red 2, Conjuring dominated its opening weekend and eventually ended up with $137 million in the US. Not bad for a $20 million flick with no major stars involved.
Set in 1971, Conjuring introduces us to Roger Perron (Ron Livingston) and his wife Carolyn (Lili Taylor). Along with their five daughters, they move into a run-down Rhode Island farmhouse and immediately begin to experience strange, scary occurrences.
Faced with escalating weirdness and terror, the Perrons resort to an unusual option. They call in Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga), well-known paranormal investigators. They come in to find out the mysteries of the house and how to assist the Perrons.
Conjuring comes based on a real story, though skeptics among us will question how “true” anything about the paranormal can be. Nonetheless, it does derive from actual events, which gives it a little charge that a totally fictional tale would lack.
Apparently the Warrens enjoyed a long career in the supernatural field and they participated in notable cases such as The Amityville Horror. Bowever, I don’t believe the Warrens ever were depicted as big-screen movie characters until now. I know they made no appearance in either version of Amityville, and a quick look at IMDB shows that the Warrens popped up in TV material but not theatrical releases.
Given the success of Conjuring, I expect subsequent efforts “based on the true case files of the Warrens”, though I can’t say I’ll be eager to see any of those further adventures. As a horror tale, Conjuring lacks much creativity and doesn’t do much to rise above the pack.
Conjuring reminds me of another effort with director James Wan and actor Patrick Wilson, 2010’s Insidious, mainly because both flicks a) show obvious influences and b) come with bifurcated narratives. In the case of Insidious, its first half resembled Paranormal Activity while the second took after Poltergeist. For Conjuring, we tend toward Amityville Horror for the initial hour and then once again lean toward Poltergeist for the second section, as Ed, Lorraine and other team members attempt to deal with the supernatural forces.
I can’t criticize movies for their obvious influences, as more than a century into the existence of film as a narrative form, it becomes virtually impossible to create a piece without any forebears. Horror flicks seem more vulnerable to this than others, as the genre tends to lean pretty heavily on prior works.
I think that’s a big reason why horror fans tend to attract a younger audience. Old fogies like me enjoy the genre but we’re stuck with a “been there, done that” factor; the more horror you see, the more difficult it becomes to find something that frightens you.
Conjuring suffers from that sensibility, as it just doesn’t manage to invest anything fresh into the genre. The majority of its attempted scares stem from the usual suspects such as creepy visions and abrupt, loud noises. The film desperately attempts a feeling of dread, but it doesn’t achieve it; no matter how heavily it pours on the creepy music and the general sense of spookiness, it can’t pull us into its world well enough for us to experience the desired chills and jolts.
Conjuring does come with an unusual narrative device, though. While my synopsis may leave the impression that Ed and Lorraine don’t appear until well into the story, it actually introduces them before it brings in the Perron clan, and the film alternates between the two clans before it eventually joins them at the hip.
On the surface, that may seem like a questionable choice, as it telegraphs the supernatural material; after all, it makes no sense to introduce “ghost hunters” if we won’t eventually meet some spirits, right? However, I can’t fault the filmmakers too much for this theoretical foreshadowing because virtually all viewers will assume these developments anyway; we paid to see a movie called The Conjuring, so we expect this kind of material. Plus, The Exorcist introduced Father Merrin before we met Regan and that didn’t keep it from becoming an all-time great horror flick.
But Conjuring is no Exorcist. Honestly, it’s not a bad movie, and it manages a few minor twists despite its derivative nature. I just can’t find much here to make it seem like anything fresh or especially effective; it’s just another predictable horror experience without much new to say.
Fun with release date trivia: actor Patrick Wilson and director James Wan made 2010’s Insidious and teamed up again for Insidious: Chapter 2, which came out less than two months after Conjuring. It’s not unheard of for a director to put out two films so close together; heck, Steven Spielberg released 2011’s War Horse and Adventures of Tintin within four days of each other. However, those two appealed to different audiences, whereas Conjuring and Insidious went after the same crowd. Whether or not this hurt the Insidious sequel remains unclear; it did pretty well but it’s possible it would’ve fared even better if viewers hadn’t already gotten such a similar effort only weeks beforehand.
The Disc Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B/ Bonus D+
The Conjuring appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. The transfer consistently seemed satisfying.
Sharpness was very good. The film appeared well-defined and concise, without any obvious signs of softness along the way. No problems with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and edge enhancement remained absent. In terms of print issues, no concerns materialized.
Like most modern horror movies, Conjuring went with a stylized palette. Much of the flick stayed with a desaturated set of tones; a few brighter colors popped up in some moments but those remained rare, as sepia and blue dominated. Within those constraints, the hues were appropriate and well-rendered. Blacks seemed dark and tight, while shadows showed nice delineation and didn’t appear too dense. Overall, this was a positive presentation.
Similar thoughts greeted the fairly good DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Conjuring. The soundfield mostly delivered a mix heavy on atmosphere. Ominous noises cropped up in the side and rear speakers, and scare moments added to the track. Those elements created a nice sense of place and added impact to the material.
Audio quality satisfied. Speech sounded crisp and distinctive, and music appeared robust and full. Effects were accurate and dynamic. Low-end response showed good thump and richness. Nothing here dazzled, but the audio merited a “B”.
Despite the movie’s success, the Blu-ray lacks many extras. Face to Face with Terror goes for six minutes, 39 seconds and includes notes from the real-life folks who experienced the story behind The Conjuring; we hear from Lorraine Warren, Carolyn Buchanan, Roger Perron, Nancy Perron, Christine Perron, Andrea Perron, April Perron and Cindy Perron. We also find some remarks from production designer Julie Berghoff.
As expected, “Terror” tells us a little about what the Perrons and Warrens went through back in 1971. While it’s cool to hear from the real people, I can’t say we find much that I’d call illuminating. A serious documentary about the topic would be useful, but this ends up mostly as a promo piece without real depth.
A Life in Demonology lasts 15 minutes, 39 seconds and features Warren, psychic investigators Jason Butler and Tony Spera, director James Wan, Father James Anziano, paranormal investigator Joe Franke, paranormal historian Bill Morrison, East Coast Angels Paranormal Investigators director Michael Salerno, screenwriters Carey Hayes and Chad Hayes, and producers Peter Safran and Tony Derosa-Grund. We learn about the lives/careers of Ed and Lorraine Warren as well as other aspects of paranormal investigation and the development of the film.
Like “Terror”, “Life” has the potential to be informative and interesting, but it doesn’t deliver much meat. We get a general overview without introspection or much more than generalities. Expect another piece meant to promote the film.
Finally, Scaring the ‘@$*%; Out of You runs eight minutes, four seconds and offers comments from Safran, Wan, Derosa-Grund, Carey and Chad Hayes, Berghoff, producer Rob Cowan, and actors Vera Farmiga, Ron Livingston, Lili Taylor and Patrick Wilson. We learn about the director and cast, elements of the story, Wan’s approach to the material, sets and design elements. “Scaring” throws out a few decent insights, mainly about how Wan worked with the narrative, but it’s too short to tell us much.
The disc opens with an ad for We’re the Millers. No trailer for Conjuring pops up here.
A second platter delivers a DVD copy of Conjuring. It comes with the “Scaring” featurette but lacks any of the other extras.
Should horror fans expect anything new from The Conjuring? Nope. While it delivers a professional experience, it lacks much creativity and feels like something we’ve seen many times in the past. The Blu-ray boasts excellent visuals and good audio but comes with forgettable bonus materials. Genre buffs might want to give The Conjuring a look, but they shouldn’t anticipate anything special.
Viewer Film Ratings: 3.0952 Stars
| Number of Votes: 21