Overall, The Conjuring was an entertaining film with some genuine scares and a good cast. It had some significant weaknesses, however, that took the film from very good to just good.
The title suggested witchcraft, but the problem was that the undead witch didn’t actually, you know, conjure anything. So the title was somewhat misleading.
Ed Warren had a calm assurance at the beginning that suggested competence and experience in supernatural occurrences, and the actor did a great job of turning that into genuine alarm when things got dangerous. I don’t know why Lorraine Warren had to dress like a Victorian schoolmarm transplanted into 1971. Lili Taylor was inoffensive, even when possessed (that’s a problem). Ron Livingston was wasted, though he did as much as he could with a mostly thankless role.
There’s such a thing as being based too much on a true story, and that’s where the film fell down. We really didn’t need all five daughters as characters. They tended to blur together except for the really little one and the really big one. The subplot with the evil doll was an utter waste of time that detracted from the movie’s focus. It’s great that the Warrens have their own family and all, but we didn’t need to see their daughter in danger. It muddled things.
So the antagonist was a witch, right? Or was it a demon? Or a demon possessing the now-dead witch? Or a demon/witch amalgam? If it was just an undead witch, then why would an exorcism with a Catholic priest kick her out? I thought exorcism only worked on demons. What happened to the other ghosts: Rory and the maid? Did they get exorcised, too?
The daughter sliding around the living room floor elicited laughs more than terror.
It was mentioned that crucifixes annoy the demon, but apparently don’t stop it. And Ed Warren was able to exorcise the demon himself instead of needing a priest from the Vatican to do it. Does that mean anyone can perform an exorcism? I thought priests had an extra line to God because of their study, their faith, their sacrifices and training. In this film they don’t. Why have priests at all, then? The treatment of religion in the film was muddled, though it was an interesting departure to have the Warrens be, at least partially, people of faith.
I liked the movie, but not that much. 3 out of 5 stars.