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Movie Review: ‘The Conjuring’

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I’m an atheist, a skeptic, and a rational human being. I don’t believe in gods, psychics, demons, ghosts, or other spooky things. That being said, I’m a huge fan of The Exorcist, and I am perfectly capable of employing the suspension of disbelief necessary to thoroughly enjoy a film about demon possession.  I went into The Conjuring with an open mind, expecting to enjoy some classic horror thrills. But what I THE CONJURINGsaw instead was a movie that seemed obsessed with falling into the realm of the completely absurd, destined to just be another forgotten mainstream horror film.

The Exorcist was tempered in its execution, relying on traditional scares, clever lighting, and superb sound design to sell you on its premise, and that’s why it was so effective. The Conjuring starts out following this time-tested formula, but soon devolves into nonsensical crap, stabbing your suspension of disbelief to death with one of the silliest exorcisms ever to haunt a horror movie, floating shotguns and biting demons included.

The story follows the Perron family who just purchased an old house in Harrisville, Rhode Island. Soon after moving in, the family is haunted by numerous spirits, and things just seem to get worse as time goes on. Something evil is in this house, and it clearly wants the Perron family dead.  With their options running out, the family seeks the help of Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga), two demonologists who specialize in dealing with creatures from another world.

Lorraine is a clairvoyant capable of seeing images from the past, and it doesn’t take her long to figure out that the evil spirit of a witch named Bathsheba (Joseph Bishara) is behind the worst of the disturbances. However, conducting an exorcism of the house will require church approval, and that means the gathering of evidence, using all the typical ghost-busting methods you’ve seen in countless other films –- automated cameras, black lights, audio recordings, etc.

Most of the film up until this point involved effective scares:  hands that would emerge from a wardrobe and clap, an invisible spirit that would stand behind a door, photos that would fall from the wall, doors that would slam on their own, and something pulling on the foot of a young girl at night. All of this worked well to send chills down my spine, but it’s short lived once the Warrens take center stage.

Once they dominate the movie, The Conjuring morphs into an adventure film, with the Warrens trying to save the family before time runs out. It’s a cheap way to form a narrative, and it turns a scary movie into one that features little more than sub-par suspense. By the time we get to Patrick Wilson pulling out his cross like a gangster to exorcise him some demon ass, I was already looking forward to leaving the theatre.

I have to imagine that even hard-core Christians are going to find the religious aspects of The Conjuring to be quite silly. It certainly has an undertone of faith throughout, legitimizing the existence of demons with its “based on a true story” gimmick. This marketing ploy may serve to sell tickets, but it won’t fool anyone once they’ve actually sat through an hour of the movie.

I don’t necessarily mind when a film claims to be based on actual events – it’s the job of the audience to investigate how true a work really is. However, if you’re going to try and sell a movie as if it’s based on reality, you may want to try and ground it in reality somewhat. And having scenes that feature floating upside down chairs, guns that fly around and fire themselves, and evil dolls that terrorize children is not the way to do it.

Ed and Lorraine Warren are very real people. Lorraine still investigates the paranormal to this day, despite her husband’s death back in 2006. The couple is best known for “investigating” the Amityville Horror case. Like most peddlers of magic powers, none of the work of the real-life Warrens has ever been confirmed as true. Still, that doesn’t stop The Conjuring from making the duo look like altruistic heroes, using science to confirm their theology. This certainly is not actually the case, but, hey, it’s a movie. A movie with sequels. Judging by the way The Conjuring unfolds, it  looks as though the adventures of the Warrens will continue into a franchise — not that you’ll want to see any more of them after you see this.

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About Chad Michael Van Alstin

Chad is an award-winning libertarian opinion columnist. He's done with that now. Having earned himself a B.A. in Mass Communication, Chad now spends most of his time as a wage laborer, killing the pain by consuming as many video games and movies as possible. Follow him on Twitter: @ChadVanAlstin
  • JM

    After seeing all the positive reviews, I thought I was going insane, considering it was one of the worst movies of its genre I’d seen in quite some time. Glad I stumbled upon this. Because The Conjuring sucked.

    Great review and well written.

    • sam

      thank goodness, I agree, felt the same.

  • Delany

    Thank you! I’m an insanely huge horror fan so insane in fact that I asked for a chucky doll from child’s play for my 8th birthday. When I saw this movie got a R rated for being too scary I was beyond excited to see it because I have yet to find a movie that truly satisfies my thirst for terror. It was just too over the top. I too am an atheist, but I still enjoy a good exorcism (when done right that is). The exorcism in this movie had me hiding my face, not in fear, but in shame for those involved in making the film. I still can’t wrap my head around how it got an R rated and especially how it got such great reviews! This is the first true review I’ve seen!

    • Chad Van Alstin

      I have no idea how it was Rated R. That’s a good point. It was a very tame movie.

  • Red

    Shame about the bad spelling in your review

    • Chad Van Alstin

      Where? I’ll gladly fix any typo. It’s hard to catch all of them — the editors must have missed it, too.

  • Kurt Gardner

    Fellow Blogcritic approves. This movie should’ve been called “The Amityville Snorer.”

  • Amit Shekhar

    Bro , you must develop your sense of watching Movies, understand cinema and craft.This film is as good as The Exorcist, this movie is a True Gem Horror Movie… one of the best Horror Movie of the year.. A Must watch movie..You are Very Much Biased…. you can reply after its box office results . i can assure, You will be proven wrong . Either its an audience point of view or Box office collection ..
    When you say your are an atheist and skeptic that makes you confused, atheist means you are still interested into God , you are still A THEIST, and skeptic is nowhere. when you say , you dont believe in something without experimentation or research , you prove yourself you are not rational…

    How can you compare any two Film , and your are comparing with The Exorcist … hahha.. everything has its own way storytelling techniques and era.. Kindly develop sense to write a review…..

    • Chad Van Alstin

      I studied film in college. Certainly an opinion on a movie is a largely subjective thing.

      And no sir, “Atheist” literally means “Not Theist”. An atheist is someone who lacks belief in a deity or does not believe in a god. That’s not the same thing as saying there for sure is no god, which of course cannot be tested.

      Much how the existence of Dimension X can’t be tested either. So, I lack a belief in that, but I can’t for sure say it doesn’t exist.

      In other words, I require hard evidence to believe in anything. Simple as that. I’m not sure where your unusual definition of “atheist” comes from.

      • Amit Shekhar

        Bro the definition you have referred is so common and known to me, You did not understand the meaning and reference of still interested in God …. By calling Atheist does not make you rational,For a person who is rational and scientific Atheist is an useless word, it is just a word generated by Theists , try to find some more meaningful word for your expression.. Atheist is always very much interested in God but does not find any proof …

        • Chad Van Alstin

          I’m not interested in God at all, and I’m an atheist. I can’t imagine it being any other way, really…

    • Chad Van Alstin
  • sam

    This film is as cliched and idiotic as the Warrens themselves. No idea why it’s getting good reviews. I can see it being a financial success in the US with the born again contingent though.

  • Reality

    who the fuck is Chad Michael Van Alstin anyhow? This is a good movie….hater…suck it

    • Jasmine

      Please have some respect! If you’re not matured enough to handle other people’s opinion that might be the OPPOSITE of yours – then you aren’t grown up enough to be reading reviews! Grow up, Chad’s a reviewer and this is HIS opinion, if you don’t agree – fine, but you don’t have to be a child and swear at him. All 5 fingers can’t be the same, you need to learn that.

    • Chad Van Alstin

      Typical anonymous internet comment. I don’t let them bother me…

      • skramblz

        Yea, but you were completely wrong. The movie was good, and i could argue that you are just a typical “journalist” who finds the need to go against the mainstream to feed your self-important nature.

    • NotRealAtAll

      Disagree. It sucked ass. Up until the ghost behind the door was revealed I thought it had a great ambiance and creepy vibe going on. As soon as the green witch from Oz popped up I was like “yeah this isn’t all that great” and it just went downhill from there. But you know, god forbid some people have a different opinion then yours.

  • Reality

    all you atheist lame ass bitches need to chill on being overly serious about how much you hate your lives, it’s one thing to hate on a perfectly good entertaining movie, it’s another to sit here and bitch about religion like you know anything about it. take a few weeks off from the circle jerk putos, Peace, I’m done even acknowledging this bs site

  • Camp Jammer

    What a sad, small man you must be …

  • Whistleblower

    Oh, gee, another American film that couldn’t resist a racist subliminal in passing. Ed Warren is being interviewed by a black reporter whilst taking him through his museum. Ed refers to a toy monkey and lo the camera focuses on the face of the reporter. Something should really done about this crap.