THE BLACK SHEEP is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATH. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Dig in!
The Conjuring (201)
Directed by James Wan
“It works about as well as a Disney Channel Halloween Special.”
I’d classify myself as a James Wan fan. Fans gave the dude plenty of love for co-creating one of the most profitable horror franchises ever in Saw, but I’ve dug most everything else that he’s tackled from Death Sentence to Dead Silence to Insidious.
This past summer, Wan bitch slapped the mainstream with his most successful film (so far) with The Conjuring, which will more than likely evolve into his third freakin’ franchise. The guy has established himself as the new Master of Horror. How can’t he be? If studios continue to make Saw and Insidious sequels (and more Conjuring) then he’ll have more franchises than any other horror icon before him. Hell, he’ll have more franchises rolling in cinemas than DC Comics. That’s damn impressive.
However, Wan (or whoever directs Part 2: Conquering the Conjuring) better come back with something a hell of a lot more than what was previously done because The Conjuring is one of the safest, dullest, and family friendly horror films since perhaps Poltergeist. Ok, so family friendly may be a bit of an exaggeration, but for a director known for pushing the boundaries of gore and taste, this isn’t the James Wan fans dig. In fact, The Conjuring represents the sell-out moment of a director. Well, I suppose that’s somewhat incorrect with his latest director assignment to the billion-dollar Fast and Furious franchise. Now that’s selling out, which I don’t care about. A guy has to make a living.
My issues comes from tracing the moment when beloved horror filmmakers lose their stuff. For example, Carpenter basically disappeared after Memoirs of the Invisible Man. Craven ruined his career with Vampire in Brooklyn (though returned with more comedic Scream). Raimi left horror for Spider-Man and that stupid Oz movie (it remains to be seen if he can come back). Obviously, we can’t blame them for wanting to do something else creatively or grab a solid paycheck, but horror fans are greedy, and usually once a director leaves a genre, it’s difficult to recapture what they once had.
Anyway, back to the subject at hand. The Conjuring is more or less a safer, duller version of the tired, cliched haunted house story. I really don’t even understand why it was rated R. There's no gore, no f*cking cuss words, and not even a side boob. It's near Disney safe. The story doesn't even attempt to reinvent the genre. Someone was killed in the house long ago and the ghost must right the wrongs of the past because blah, blah, blah. Seriously, is there no new way to spin the haunted house story? And yes, I know it was based on a true story, but this is a tale we’ve all seen over and over. The only inventive element comes from the clapping of the hands in the dark. It’s a good gimmick, but will it become an icon horror stable? Eh…let’s hope not.
There’s a lot about the film I like actually. I love the doll, Annabelle. Now, as any fan of Wan knows, the dude loves creepy dolls, but here it felt so tacked onto the story that it didn't do what it could have done. It reeked of the Hollywood system of setting up the sequel. If the doll isn’t part of the story, what the hell is it doing there. Give us the killer doll. Don't tease.
I also have an issue with Lily Taylor. I don’t know what it is about her, but she was the weakest link to The Haunting, and once again, she plays another weak character. She just bothers me. Her character reminds me a slightly stronger version of Wendy from The Shining. Flat and uninteresting. Instead of focusing on her, the flick would have been a hell of a lot more effective to focus on the investigators, Ed and Lorraine. She's the one who sees the horror. She's the one who feels the pain. They end up the only the interesting characters because they venture into the dark shit. That’s the story. That’s how The Conjuring could have felt more original. Instead, well, it works about as well as a Disney Channel Halloween Special.