Where I Watched It: HBO MAX
English Audio Description?: Yes
When i set out to start some Halloween reviews, I landed on The Conjuring. Not only had the franchise become wildly successful, putting out two sequels (so far), but it spun off Annabelle (which also has two sequels), and The nun (which has a sequel on the way). I figured this would be a good start, especially considering its influence, and how many films have tried to recreate this magic since. Originally, I stayed away because I presumed the film was nothing but jump scares. James Wan (Saw) has never struck me as being a top tier director, but this film changed my mind about what he is capable of.
Even blind, I can tell you this film is legitimately scary. It actually does a fairly good job of building up the tension. We have an intro segment that involves Annabelle, before launching into the meat of the film. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga are really good in roles that could have been over played, but they keep them rather grounded. This allows Lili Taylor to really shine throughout the film, as she tends to go through the ringer a bit more than the other characters.
What works here is that Wan builds the tension. For a long time, there’s just this really uncomfortable feeling. you know what you signed up for. This is a horror film, so things are going to go haywire at some point. The question is when. And Wan holds you for quite a while, showing you things that make you unsettled and unnerved more than genuinely scared, before attempting his first true jump scare. And when it lands, it packs a punch. It works because you’ve seen so many opportunities for the jump scare already, and it never came. Suggestions have been made, clapping hands have been heard (even seen), but the first real jump scare when the house finally reveals its nightmares to the audience doesn’t come until nearly the halfway point.
Until then, the parents and kids are just having weird things happen. Forces pulling them at night, sleepwalking, bruises, and lots of things that are creepy, but not scary. By building the tension, when wan cuts loose, we’ve already become invested in the characters, and the rest of the film is one hell of an R-Rated horror ride. no wonder this was so successful. It deserves the praise it got.
The audio description here is British, and wasn’t listed in the credits. I don’t know who made this. It’s not hard to remember that flashlights are torches, and that’s the biggest change your mind needs to make. What i didn’t like about the description was that it often took a generic route in describing the things that go bump in the night. Whether you’d call them demons, ghosts, or whatever, some of them are just given a name so we don’t know how scary they actually look.
The film forgets that it is describing a horror film, a film where people show up for scares, gore, and frights. It doesn’t ruin an jump scares, but sometimes it just makes whatever is trying to scare you sound rather normal. There is something just described as “The Crone” and, for me, that tells me nothing.
So if you’re looking for a spooky film this season, and haven’t yet checked out The Conjuring, I do highly recommend it. Horror has never been my genre, because i don’t like cheap jump scares, or gore for the sake of gore. The Conjuring earns all that it delivers, and that is a craft. That is storytelling. And that is actual direction from James Wan.
Final Grade: A-