Thoughts on “The Conjuring”

So, if you like my general commentaries on various media, you’ll be happy, because that’s what you’re going to be getting. First, I started with my thoughts on “She-Ra: Princess of Power”. This week, because Hallowe’en falls this week — and I actually have three horror movies watched to this point and have a large current and upcoming list of pop culture things to talk about — you’re going to get three discussions of those cheap horror movies that I talk about every so often. And the following Monday I’m probably going to talk about Doctor Who. So, yeah, lots of that, so if you like it, you’ll be happy. And if you don’t, then you’ll probably want to tune back in next week when I get back to video games and philosophy.

So, as just stated, this week in honour of Hallowe’en I’m going to talk about horror movies. Unfortunately, if you want to actually be scared these three movies aren’t exactly going to do that.

“The Conjuring” has turned itself into a franchise, with at least two specific Conjuring movies and at least two “Annabelle” movies based on the doll that is mentioned and shown in the first Conjuring movie. I have the first Conjuring movie, but all of the others are ones that can, in general, be attained relatively cheaply, but I figured that I should probably watch the first one first before shelling out more cash for the sequels. This was probably a good idea, since the first one is, well, just an okay movie.

The story revolves around two plots. The first, and more directly supernaturally related, is about a family who moves into an old house and immediately ends up experiencing strange events. The second is about the husband and wife team of paranormal investigators who come to investigate the house and help them, and about the wife being a medium who had a very bad experience in their last case, which didn’t involve the doll. The paranormal investigators are the main characters in the story, but their personal story is really the B-plot, but gets explored quite a bit in the movie.

These two plots are what ultimately ruins the movie. The B-plot is in general much less scary than the A-plot, which seems to be by design as it is about a family resolving family issues. It’s therefore much more pleasant and “homey” than the A-plot. However, the scenes are interweaved with the supernatural scenes, which means that we move from supernatural horror to family drama in a relatively short period of time. This should produce Mood Whiplash, where we move from being afraid to experiencing caring people caring about each other, but it never does. This highlights, then, that the supernatural horror and suspense just isn’t that scary, especially during the first parts of the movie. Stopping the action to do the family plot doesn’t help, as that time could have been better spent building up the supernatural menace and making the movie more scary and suspenseful.

However, those parts of the movie also actually work. The family in the house is generally sympathetic and works well together, and the relationship of the paranormal investigators works as well and is interesting to watch. The plots are tied together credibly enough with only a little bit of stupidity and contortions required to fit everything together. As the main characters are paranormal investigators, the movie does a credible job of explaining what is going on and relaying the backstory of the ghosts and demons involved in the haunting. So it’s interesting enough to watch, for all of that.

So it’s not a bad movie. It’s just not really a scary movie. The threat is credible enough but the tone for most of the movie doesn’t set up the creepiness or horror required to make it all work as a horror movie. I might watch it again (or, at least, might if I had the time) but it’s not any kind of a classic movie.

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6 Responses to “Thoughts on “The Conjuring””

  1. Tom Says:

    I know this is really off topic, but since you’ve written a number of posts on identity politics and why you think it’s a bad idea, I’d like to see a post detailing your thoughts on this article taking on the criticism of conservative David Brooks of the Democratic party and what you think might be wrong with the reasons, if any:

    https://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/david-brooks-latest-nyt-column-bashing-democrats-exposes-hollow-core-centrist

    • verbosestoic Says:

      I have a post percolating on the issues with identity politics that might show up at some point over the next month if I ever manage to sit down to write it. And the summary of the problem with this is response to Brooks is that it appeals to their coalition as an excuse to cater specifically to groups ignoring that since those groups often have conflicting interests they CAN’T actually succeed at doing that, and that the groups that are left out will, well, feel left out and feel disillusioned with the party. On top of that, doing so allows them to avoid actually figuring out what most people or voters care about in order to focus on that. The article never actually makes the argument that most people care the most about health care, but that would be the ultimate argument to use against Brooks’ comments, to say that they are indeed focusing on what resonates with most people. Instead, the article essentially says that they don’t really care or want to deal with that as a response to Trump, hiding behind the purported contradictions in the arguments to do so.

      • Tom Says:

        Maybe it would help if you could be a little more specific about exactly which groups you have in mind that are being left out and why they feel disillusioned in the first place. Because this response to what gets called ‘identity politics’ always seems so vague. Would you consider Martin Luther King or Bobby Kennedy ‘identity politics’ or ‘Social Justice Warrior’ and recommend that they have taken different actions?

      • verbosestoic Says:

        I was referring to this specifically from the article:

        What is true is that while the Republican base is relatively homogenous, the Democratic coalition is much more diverse. This is the basic fact of American politics, which Brooks surely knows, and it is the reason why the same kinds of authoritarian, cultural appeals that Trump makes by drumming up fears of outsiders don’t work among Democrats — and thank goodness for that. This is not some “messaging vulnerability that Democrats have imposed upon themselves.”

        It’s the nature of the party and one to be welcomed. But it also means that the party’s “cultural” appeals can’t be mass market — they have to be targeted and voluminous, picking out the different identities of the various groups that make up the coalition.

        And my comment is that because all of those groups have different and often conflicting interests, you can’t do that. Some of them are going to have their interests minimized or ignored, and are going to get left out of the discussion while they focus on the issues of the other groups. This will leave them feeling left out. Arguably, that’s a big part of what happened to Clinton in the election: many of these groups thought that Sanders represented them better, and after Clinton won felt left out and at least weren’t motivated to vote for her.

        As for MLK, he tended, as far as I can tell, to make his arguments on the basis of “This is unjust!” rather than “This is in the interests of black people”. While they often mouth arguments on the basis of justice, anyone relying on identity politics will ultimately emphasize the latter argument because it appeals directly to an identity group, rather than the former which is more universal but doesn’t specifically appeal to any identity group.

  2. Tom Says:

    ‘As for MLK, he tended, as far as I can tell, to make his arguments on the basis of “This is unjust!” rather than “This is in the interests of black people”.’

    I see what you’re getting at here and there’s a grain of truth to it (he supported worker’s unions, ending the Vietnam war, etc) This really how he wasn’t perceived at the time by the majority. Polls of white people show that the majority didn’t like him, they thought he was too divisive and stirring up too much trouble and one thing he couldn’t stand were white moderates who tried to get him to soften his stance on things. We tend to remember him differently now, but instead of being ‘unifying’ he really could be quite divisive:

    https://www.patheos.com/blogs/dispatches/2017/01/18/no-form-protest-ever-right-way/

    • verbosestoic Says:

      Well, I don’t base on being divisive or not, but again only on the basis of what arguments are used. It’s not identity politics to point out that black people specifically are being treated unjustly, but it is identity politics if you are appealing for people to support measures to correct that on the basis that it is a injustice against black people specifically. MLK, it seems to me, constantly insisted that he wanted black people to get everything that everyone else had, not that he wanted to advance the cause of black people as black people generically.

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