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The Conjuring

Tuesday 30 July 2013, 13:57

Mark Kermode Mark Kermode

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There's a new horror movie out called The Conjuring. I saw it with an audience who loved it but I was left unmoved. What am I missing?

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    Comment number 1.

    Maybe a little on the pedantic side, but an "O" has been conjured on in the title to this Blog.

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    Comment number 2.

    The film is already out in America, I saw it opening night in a packed cinema full of annoying people who all engaged in exactly the same behavior, I wanted to turn arounnd and scream SHUT UP! I recognized all of the problems with the film, chief among them an endless number of riffs lifted from other movies THE AMITYVILLE HORROR, POLTERGEIST, THE HAUNTING, THE INNOCENTS, THE ORPHANAGE, THE EXORCIST, pretty much Dario Argento's whole filmography, who is apparently Wan's idol, and numerous other films. It's dialogue tends to be flat and not fit in the actors' mouths, it's terrible derivative and obvious, and devoid of much subtext.

    But I jumped at all of those same scream moments, and I did rather enjoy the film. The cinematography was beautiful and stylish, the performances were good, and it was well-constructed. Partially, I think it's the effect of being with other people who are also sacred communally in a cinema. Beyond that, Wan is gesturing, successfully or not, towards the ancient horror traditions of the the creepy old house, the sense of loss found in most ghost stories, etc. Wan is a consummate post-modernist who puts the past together and plays with the pieces. The film skims along the surface of these and doesn't explore them with depth, but on some archetypal level, I think it works. My friend sat next to me, and he can attest that I jumped and screamed at the right moments, though I thought the film began to lose its steam in the second half. It's interesting that after making SAW, the film that launched the so-called "torture porn" movement, Wan has gone back to making very old-style horror films in the sort of Universal tradition. Perhaps for younger audiences who were weaned on FRIDAY THE 13TH knockoffs in the post-slasher era, it's so old for them that it's new again. Like I said, I fully recognize the problems with the film, and most of its subtext is nonsense-I wondered for a moment how an atheist might feel about the film's religious themes and such, but they're really just hokum mythology that's an excuse to spin scares anyway. But I think the thing work. I don't think it'll have much replay value, since I know where the jumps are now, for a one-time show full of BOO! horror moments, I thought it did it's job well.

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    Comment number 3.

    I think you're just burnt out on horror. I watch films with people who aren't genre fans and they react with terror to things that make me shrug. It's hard, incredibly hard, to create something new and shocking at this point, which is probably why less creative directors default toward the hack-and-slash gorefests. The unforgivable audience behaviour wouldn't have helped though.

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    Comment number 4.

    The assertion that people who find The Conjuring scary would find A Field in England boring is a weird one. There are a different set of expectations you bring to each film and both films are trying to do something completely different, achieve different reactions and you assess them on there own terms.

    Now whether The Conjuring achieves those expectations is another issue entirely, for me I managed to get over most the problems you seem to have through willing suspension of disbelief and treating it as any other horror film with supernatural elements. I also found it quite admirable, considering the director's heritage, that the film was trying to generate scares through atmosphere, sound and weird imagery rather than through a boring amount of gore. It is flawed, yes but a horror film that is financially successful as well as being successful with critics and audiences (who have rated it very highly) is clearly working.

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    Comment number 5.

    I think the era of the so called video nasty has ruined horror. Gone are the days of steady, subtle horror films that genuinely stay with you for years afterwards. If you scream down someone's ear really loudly when they're not expecting it they'd jump. What skill did that take? None whatsoever and these filmmakers are doing the same thing. Repetitive nonsense that will be forgotten and replaced next year with Creepy Woman In A Mirror Screams For 72 minutes For No Reason Until it Turns Out She's Actually Looking For a Ring That The Heroine Was Given Upon Her Engagement and Isn't Really Creepy After All..... The End.

    Thankfully, the still little known Ghostwatch is continually being rediscovered by and scaring new generations.


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