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'The Conjuring' conjures up more than just cheap jump scares

Staff Writer

Published: Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Updated: Friday, August 23, 2013 17:08

There are really only two kinds of horror movies now. There are movies like the new “Evil Dead” that are made for the guilty pleasure of showing excess gore to please an audience that does not care about any other sort of substance, and then there are movies that claim to be based on true events sometimes shot in “found footage” format that are poor in quality and financed for cheap with the sole goal of making a small profit. Like it or not the horror genre is dead. Even zombies have been so played out that what was once a terrifying sight that caused nightmares is now just a backdrop for action thrillers like “The Walking Dead” or “World War Z.” It’s very rare to even see a horror movie that aspires to deliver the kind of genuine terror and substance as a movie like The Shining, “The Exorcist” or “Halloween” once did. “The Conjuring” is surprisingly the first movie in a long time to really try and deliver that kind of experience. Is it the scariest movie you’ll ever see? It probably isn’t, but it at least aspires to be, and considering how bad horror movies are now, it may as well be.

 The movie’s premise is this: a typical American family moves into a new house and immediately begins to experience one unexplainable phenomenon after another. When things finally escalate to a level they can no longer ignore and people are getting hurt they seek the help of the Warrens, a couple that teach college courses about paranormal phenomena by day and hunt ghosts and evil demons by night. The first half of the movie may be a bit formulaic and filled with little more than cheap jumps and scares, but once the film escalates it becomes dark and terrifying enough to justify the slow build and patience necessary to get there.

 I am aware that the Warrens are real people, I believe that they did this for a living and that something happened to inspire this movie, but I am not ready to take the film as a history lesson just yet. Nevertheless, the film didn’t push my limits far enough to care. Unlike other films loosely inspired by some sort of truth, “The Conjuring” does not try to push us so far with the story or show us extremely sensational images for the sake of terror that we are left brushing off whatever the truth may have been like we are in a movie like “A Haunting in Connecticut.” I don’t know what did or didn’t really happen, but “The Conjuring” managed to stay simple enough to make me want to believe the story. The story of demons, possessions and paranormal activities may not be believable to some. As a Catholic, I have no idea what to believe when it comes to this sort of thing, but the movie’s religious imagery and themes certainly add enough substance to make the story interesting and add enough depth to keep the biggest skeptic interested.

 “The Conjuring” comes off a lot more like an old horror film than a modern one. It paces itself, building up to a climax rather than providing cheap thrills throughout and manages to actually tell a story on top of trying to scare you. If the movie came out in 1970 it’d probably have become an instant classic. Unfortunately for “The Conjuring,” it provides enough to be memorable, terrifying and even worth multiple views, but in the year 2013 we have all seen some similar story and even similar sequences in the past. We may not have seen them so well done, but “The Conjuring” cannot undo the years of damage that awful horror movies have done to us and for some this may be enough to ruin the movie. However, there is something to be said for the movie to be able to do it better and that in itself certainly makes it worth your time. “The Conjuring” aspires to be more than most recent horror movies are and manages to provide you with more than enough thrills to keep you up at night and enough substance to make it more real and interesting. “The Conjuring” may not be the scariest movie you’ve ever seen, but it certainly isn’t just another one you’ll forget.

8.5/10

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