Welcome, dear readers, to Substream’s 31 Days of Halloween. While every holiday captures the hearts and minds of the Substream staff, Halloween holds an especially important place in our hearts. Now that we’ve entered the month of October, it’s time for us to share our love for this holiday with you.
Every single day in October, our collection of spooky staff writers and ghoulish guest contributors will walk you through a horror or Halloween-themed movie they adore. The goal is to both celebrate the titans and icons of the season while also introducing you to new films and scares to fill your autumn nights. Lock your doors, check under your bed, and settle in as you join Substream for our 31 Days of Halloween.
Day 6: The Conjuring (2013)
What makes a good horror movie? It’s something that, depending on your own personal taste and which critics you trust, really cannot be defined. Some people don’t like jump scares. Some people don’t like psychological horror, and would rather just get hit with jump scares for an hour and a half to two hours. As someone that has studied horror films for a few college courses, horror trends certainly come in waves, as you’d expect. And sometimes through that, an unexpected gem comes out of nowhere, which in 2013 was The Conjuring.
Maybe it’s not fair to say that it came out of nowhere, after all, it had a $20 million budget and was getting a lot of attention (factoring in all expenses, it’s reported to have had a profit of $161.7 million). Maybe the best way to describe The Conjuring is that it was just surprisingly good.
The movie certainly brings up some of the familiar tropes of horror. It doesn’t necessarily reinvent the wheel, but how do you really reinvent the wheel of horror when everything has, essentially, been touched? If you can’t, you have to rely on good writing, acting, and a masterfully shot film — The Conjuring checks all three. Ghosts and demonic possession are familiar, but the Ed and Lorraine Warren story added a layer of intrigue to it, even if controversial. You also have James Wan behind the film as director, and after giving us the Saw franchise and Insidious a few years prior, we all knew by the time The Conjuring came out that he was exceptionally good at horror movies.
So, what is it exactly about The Conjuring? It’s an entirely heavy atmosphere throughout the film, and while there are a decent amount of jump scares, it’s not particularly overridden with them. This is good, considering it’s plot of “family moves into new house that is haunted” is nothing new. You’re going up against those stereotypes from the start, and have to almost prove to the audience they made the right choice coming to your film.
The Conjuring uses very little in the way of digital effects, and instead relies on strong acting performances to set the mood and make you feel utterly sympathetic for what’s going on around these characters. You’re placed smack in the middle of everything, surrounded by big scares and little scares alike. Most of us grew up believing in ghosts and monsters, sometimes thinking we were haunted ourselves, and The Conjuring knows that. It shows a lot of footsteps, noises in the dark, while also having entities that some of our younger selves would have swore they saw ourselves — adding a small layer of realism.
It’s a cinematically beautiful film, with old-school and new-school scares, but it never feels cheap. It’s a beautiful example of why tension should be something that lingers throughout the entirety of the film. For example, the opening scene of The Conjuring is the first time we meet Annabelle, and then the tension doesn’t really let up from there. Throughout the film, not every single scene is one that tries to directly scare you or leave you sleepless; instead, they all set up the larger story of the film. Every scene wants to keep you guessing, and want to make it feel all the more real.
If you haven’t seen The Conjuring yet, I’d highly encourage you to go and turn this film on. It’s truly one of the greatest horror films of this century, and I haven’t even spoiled some of the best parts about it! Of course it’s just the beginning of The Conjuring franchise, so if you like it, you’ve got a lot of films to keep the story going for you.