The Conjuring (2013): James Wan Fine Tuning of the Genre

The Conjuring

The Conjuring is James Wan working hard to fine tune his take on the horror genre. The man who brought us Saw (2004); Dead Silence (2007); and Insidious (2010) as a director is learning how to scare more effectively and not rely upon gore to make his audience swoon with terror.

Insidious, for all its opening promise (which contained a very effective “jump scare” in the first five minutes, ultimately lost its punch three-quarters of the way through the film. It was brilliantly scary right up until it decided to morph into the 1982 film Poltergeist.  But the film was an improvement on his two other forays into the genre.

Saw, was unique – the first one was anyway – and it did go outside the box quite adroitly before it became a gore entrenched franchise that lost a little something with each revisit to the verse. Dead Silence could have been brilliant, but wasn’t. I personally could never connect with the protagonist and the whole premise had been done better in Korea with the excellent film The Doll Master.

But in making The Conjuring, James Wan has fine tuned his take on the genre and given us one hell of a scary movie.

His latest offering in the horror stakes was a real tour de force of creepy, scary and downright popcorn losing horror. Wan brings you into the state of dread and jumpy fear slowly. Building up the feelings we have for the real life couple Ed and Lorraine Warren. I’d seen them both in filmed interviews when Ed was still alive (he died in 2006) and they both struck me as caring and nice people. Wan’s casting of Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson was a stroke of genius.

Both actors exuded a kind of warmth and inner confidence that the real Ed and Lorraine seemed to have. Every actor worked well in the film and it was nice to see The Haunting’s Lili Taylor back in the genre again.

The story of the Perron family is a true one and just one of many that the fascinating Warren couple investigated in their role as “ghost busters.” Unfortunately for them, they got involved in the mess that was Amityville and the resultant bad publicity that incident generated took away from their early credibility.

Wan manages to make us care about both the Warren’s and the Perron’s and we feel real dread at the evil presence in the house in Long Island and in Ed Warren’s room of artefacts. The doll, Annabelle, (which was also from a real case) exuded a menace so palpable that I felt the bloody thing was going to show up in the possessed Perron house a la Chucky and start stabbing everyone to death.


In the cinema where I finally got to see the film, I was about four seats away from the most intrusive couple I’ve ever had the displeasure of watching a film with. She was, apparently, stupid and he was, again apparently, drunk. They spent the entire film loudly whispering to each other about events on the screen that they either didn’t understand or had missed. I was ready to throttle the two of them ten minutes into the film.

Even their constant babbling during the film did not mar the suspense, fear and popcorn tossing that came from my part of the cinema. I must have jerked so many times that the bolts of my seat had to have been loosened. Wan’s effective use of sound, which he also did well in Insidious, had me cranked up and ready to kangaroo jump out of my seat repeatedly.

The look of the film was brilliant. The textures, the colours, the lighting of the film were all spot on and all worked together with the actors to sell this scary as hell horror film.  With Wan honing his skills and with the very evident fine tuning of the horror genre in The Conjuring, I am eagerly looking forward to seeing Insidious 2, despite the Tiny Tim music.  This is a real 5 out of 5 star scary film.  Try to catch it while it’s still in the cinema!

James Wan on set of The Conjuring
James Wan on set of The ConjuringRelated articles


Author: Mike's Film Talk

Former Actor, Former Writer, Former Journalist, USAF Veteran, Former Member Nevada Film Critics Society

24 thoughts on “The Conjuring (2013): James Wan Fine Tuning of the Genre”

  1. Nice review 🙂
    I own both Dead Silence and Insidious on DVD and love them both. I get geeky as hell about the little touches, and Insidious’ soundtrack is to die for. I can connect to the protagonist in Dead Silence cos I’m a True Blood fan and Ryan Kwanten is one of the main characters in True Blood. I watched Dead Silence with friends and we all loved it! I gotta say though The Conjuring definitely shows that Wan is constantly improving, which of course is bound to happen…we gotta start somewhere!
    Casting Patrick Wilson was a teeny bit of a cop out considering he was in Insidious but he was still very good in it, like he is in most things (Hard Candy was one of my favourite of his performances)
    Insidious 2 looks shit with a capital S. I NEVER trust a horror film that gives the entire damn film away in the trailer and that trailer was about 5 minutes too long! But I hope you’re right and it’s worth looking forward to!

    Glad you enjoyed the film, I actually really want to go and see it again haha xD alas, there are two films I’m going to see this month and I can’t afford any more :/


    1. I agree that The Conjuring is one that deserves repeated viewings…repeatedly! LOL I’m interested in Insidious 2 because Wan is doing something different here, he usually does not go back to a film he’s started a “franchise” in. He’ll do the opening film and that’s it, it seems to be the first time he’s actively doing a sequel. 🙂


      1. Yeah but Insidious was a big money maker, my bet would be that he’s fallen into the Hollywood money making trap and has got the buzz for it. To me the trailer just looked awful, lacked integrity, nothing new…flogging a dead horse I suppose! And this comes from a big fan of Insidious haha Plus I’m always so dubious about any film that gives away too much in the trailer.
        That being said, I will be going to see Insidious 2 in the cinema as I did the first, and will probably add it to my DVD collection too! If nothing else it will be on par with the first, and that’s something worth being excited for!


      2. Another spam folder comment! Arrrggghhh!! I agree, I will be dutifully trotting down to see it the moment it opens, they scared the hell out of me with the first one, well, until the last quarter of the film, anyway! ;-=)


      3. hahaa fuck wordpress!! it’s not like I’m trying to sell anything :S how ridiculous!
        I’m getting shoved into everyone’s spam folder at the minute :/
        the first one really creeped me out too and that doesn’t happen often…I was expecting a demon to be stood in the corner of my room pointing at the bed! :O


      4. haha for fuck’s sake!
        I’ve been logging in to comment with my twitter account because that’s the only one that doesn’t get spammed, but then I don’t get notifications for replies which is a pain in the ass :/


      5. It may be your email account…I had a similar problem when I first started on here, but then, your comments never used to wind up in my spam folder?? This was there as well, I’m going to have to start checking it more regularly! You may also want to have a moan at WordPress about it. 🙂


      6. I tried to find how to contact wordpress but there’s no email address and I’m not talking to them on the phone, I’d be on hold all day probably! 😛
        Spam filters on the fritz I guess, I think it’s been happening a lot to UK users after that meltdown!


      7. I swear I replied to this a few days ago hahah but it’s popped up in my notifications again and apparently I didn’t…Wordpress really needs to sort its shit out!
        I have a horrible feeling he’s just running with something that’s making lots of money…despite a lot of negative comments, Insidious did very well when it was released and the trailer for the second feels less like a clever, thought-out continuation for a reason and more like a money maker…the trailer was so long and just looked like a corny copy of the original, it’s going nowhere new, or at least doesn’t look like it anyway. I reckon it’s more a case of he knows full well he can squeeze more money out of the franchise and has fallen into that Hollywood trap…which is generally what happens when a director goes from every film they do being a risk, to every film they do being a sure-fire hit no matter what (ie the moment they gain popularity)
        I hope that’s wrong, but from the trailer it just screams crappy sequel.
        I loved the first film though because I’m a geek and the soundtrack amazed me, so I’m looking forward to seeing where they go with it…if nothing else it’ll be a reasonably entertaining horror film 😀


      8. I have nothing bad to say about the first film,
        the horror geek in me kicked in after the titles and that awesome soundtrack and I was besotted with it…it doesn’t take much to impress me though! 😛
        I would say he’s enjoying the money, the trailer could be deceiving but it looks like it just carries on from the first film and the story is the same just this time it’s the dad that’s got to get back to his body and not the kid!!
        Oh well, if the aesthetics are as good as the first it will make me happy xD


      9. Sorry, found this and another of your comments in my spam folder, it’s like WTF WordPress?? I’m getting comments that are clearly spam being allowed through! Sorry mate, I was besotted as well, enough so that I could have paid to watch it over and over at the cinema!


  2. It was a very fun horror flick. Not necessarily scary I’d say, but still well worth the watch for a couple of jumps here and there. Good review Mike.


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