The Conjuring (2013)
Based on the true case files of the Warrens
Been a while since we had a horror movie hasn't it? What a better day than Valentines day to bring it back then! Before you run off to grab your significant other for some planned terrified huddle-action, you'd of course need to find the right movie huh? Well then, let's find out if this based on a true story option can conjure up images of money well spent or if it doesn't have a ghost of a chance.
Conjuring is a story based on a story, really. Ed and Lorraine Warren are quite the respected couple in the paranormal field, Ed being an expert demonologist recognized by the Church, and Lorraine being quite the gifted medium, and no doubt some will recognize the names from various other shows related to the field (such as A Haunting - one of my favorite shows of that type). This is but one of their case files, no doubt with a few movie-style embellishments (it does say based on and not a true story after all) to make it more fantastical. That aside, when watching it one should remember that it is in fact at least rooted in a real happening, as it will help one garner connections to the family Perron and surround oneself with the atmosphere presented.
The Perron family just got a new house out in the country. It's a pleasant looking place, quite serene and peaceful, and 90 percent of the family is rather excited about the move. The family dog, however, wants absolutely nothing to do with this new house and won't be so much as moved towards the inside. While playing a game of hide and clap, two of the girls break a board in the stairwell closet, which leads the family to discover they have a basement full of stuff. It's briefly wondered why anyone would want to board off a basement, and the girls are told to stay away from it because it's incredibly dark and there are "spiders everywhere." When they awake the next day, Carolyn (the mother) wakes up to find she's somehow been bruised. She shrugs it off and blames her husband, and the day proceeds as one would expect until the youngest daughter goes outside and finds something rather sad - the family dog is dead.
As the story carries onwards on one hand, we are also shown the Warrens through a lecture they are giving, as well as through their home life. It isn't long before things at the Perron house are getting so out of hand that Carolyn sits in on one of these lectures and begs them for help. It's at this point that things get more intriguing, as the mystery of the house gets played out and discovered through the Warrens research and attempt to capture enough evidence to get an exorcist from the church to cleanse the house of whatever may be in it. A nice bit of tension permeates the movie, and the fact that it's at the very least based on a true occurrence helps further the connection to the family, who you want only the best for during this horrible time in their lives.
Actors do a wonderful job here, having understandable reaction to most things (outside of the innate ability for people to want to investigate things that are potentially life threatening - like going towards the sound of what might be a home intruder). The kids do a much better job of coming off as completely terrified in a believable sense then the older group, and considering how easily it can go south when a large group of kids are in a movie the film successfully carries a serious tone through it's entirety. This is good, as outside of the actors and the terror aspect, there isn't much incredibly outstanding to draw the watcher's attention. Costumes are normal attire and the home, as beautiful as it is, is still not more than a home really.
Scares are worked a multitude of ways here, and I can't help but imagine that some of them might have been slightly "hollywood-ed" for added effect. Hands appear from nowhere and clap, people are pushed and pulled, bruises magically appear, things are broken and slammed, and whispers are heard. Tensions stay pretty steady over the course of the Perron family's screen time, building to the climax of the movie, whereas the Warrens segments seem as though they are partly there to give the viewer a little relief from the onslaught of terror torturing the Perron family. Moments for emotional attachment to characters crop up throughout, but who a certain viewer might attach to will probably change on a per viewer basis - some might attach to the kids and be absolutely horrified for them, others might latch to the parents who want nothing more than to protect their family, and still some may attach to the Warrens or side characters with whom the paranormal is this interesting yet dangerous thing.
Music plays a pretty background roll as usual, trying to work its way into your subconscious and send shivers up your spine most the time. There are a few moments where a strange yet apt song will be played (particularly during the gear setup at the start of the investigation), but for the most part it's background noise as usual - sometimes in a more literal sense when the characters are listening to a radio. The music box plays a tune that for intent and purpose is disregardable, outside of the mirror in the music box apparently having the ability to show you some of the spirits around the house (whether or not the music within is playing).
Overall, it might not be as scary as some movies, but the fact that it's a believable occurrence based upon a true story keeps it rooted in real terror. Unlike a movie like Paranormal Activity, it's focus is more towards being an actual movie experience and thus doesn't get bogged down in silly questions that ruin the experience (such as why are the cameras there), as the characters within act in reasonable ways to the scenario being played out. It might add a few embellishments to try and get you with some of the jump scares, but overall the atmosphere and lack of over-the-top language or violence makes it a pretty solid entry into a genre that hasn't been felt to get a whole lot of love lately - not to say there isn't anything good out there. I'm pretty sure this and a few other flicks would like to have something to say about that!