Tuesday, 13 August 2013

The Conjuring (2013)


The Conjuring has been one of the most anticipated films of the Northern Hemisphere's summer; it was made on a relatively low budget (for a studio project) and helmed by director James Wan, made famous by his groundbreaking Saw franchise and, more recently, Insidious. As an accounting entry, it looks like a really smart move on the part of the studio: a small-ish budget, a good cast, and a well respected director with experience in the genre. That should be all the necessary components to make a really successful film... right?

The truth is, I hated it. I was genuinely bored by it, and not just slightly. I really found myself counting down the minutes. However, were we go by it's reception at the box office, I'd be completely rebuffed. Financially, The Conjuring has been the most successful film of the year in terms of ROI, costing $13 million, and earning ten times that in it's first weekend in the United States alone. By the objective asses-in-the-seats figures and the subjective word-of-mouth reviews I've heard about it, it has really won over a huge portion of the cinema-going customer base. So am I being a snob? Why such a disconnect?

First, I must explain my hatred for it. The Conjuring basically displays every single haunted house movie trope that has ever been used. The more cliched the trope, the more likely you'll find it in this movie. The creepy puppet, the 'dog's can sense ghosts', the what's-in-the-mirror-isn't-there, the Salem witch trials backstory,
the creepy jack-in-the-box, the possession/exorcism gambit, the certain time and/or date is significant. I think I could easily fill three blog posts running through all the tropes used in this film. From an otherwise innovative director (and local boy) James Wan, I think we can expect more. Or am I being cynical? Is there an alternative explanation for the film's success?

Catherine Bray on BBC's The Film Programme offered an alternative explanation: audiences had too many big robots and macho superhero films to chose from and clearly couldnt see all of them; so when a smaller horror film came along, everyone could see that. I don't buy it; if that logic held, then last year's The Woman in Black should have broken $100 million too, but it didn't. Could it be that positive expectation and critics' predisposition to praise the movie gave rise to a wave of positive reaction, despite the film being mediocre? (which would be the inverse and opposite of The Lone Ranger experience, as Johnny Depp and co-stars are now blaming presumptuous negative reviews for the poor performance of The Lone Ranger at the box office). If that were so, It would be a rarity in cinema history.

In the case of The Conjuring, I give up. I just can't understand why such nothing-new, a run of the mill horror flick has performed so fantastically well. I could file it under 'these young kids haven't seen the classics' and 'I've seen too many movies to be impressed by this', but the thing is, I'm only 28, so, this one will remain a mystery.

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