Unbeknownst to me, writer/director/producer/star Matt Busch is an accomplished artist and self-proclaimed "rock star of illustration" of pop culture the likes of Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, and a slew of other hot properties. With such a talent essentially playing himself, you'd think Conjure's premise would write itself, yet ultimately it's an exercise in vanity by Busch that's more interesting for what it's not.
The film trips into the usual problems that often plague extremely cheap, digital video horror. It takes far too long to do nothing and relies on nonsensical "fright" montages to push the story along as important details that could have instead filled the runtime are heaved to the wayside. An example being a random book Busch pulls from his art supply shelf containing aged, Tom Sullivan-like Necronomicon pages depicting strange symbols and terrifying female spectres. These ghosts eventually haunt Busch and his squeeze, but there's zero explaination of how the book, obviously drawn by the artist, came to be. It seems logical to instead have the manifestations increase in their spectral intensity as Busch draws each page as the story unfolds. Yet no, soon after the discovery of the ready-made tome, we're treated to a bunch of quick cutting imagery of the ghosts before Busch and girlfriend mysteriously end up in front of the very castle he's been driven to paint.
Conjure's main genre influence is blatantly The Evil Dead, which makes me question Busch's interest in horror, considering the trite and immature choice. No offense, but let's face it, Raimi's landmark of indie horror is the film every also-ran in indie horror desperately wants to emulate, so even tipping your hat to it is groan-inducing. Yes, Ashley and the Deadites are fucking awesome, we all know this, time to blaze your own trail. Guess what Busch has to do with the pages of the book to finally vanquish the demons?
With more finesse and less echoes of Carly Simon's 1972 mega-hit, Conjure could have proven something akin to a preemptive Paranormal Activity. As this one stands, Busch's heartless sell of his film in this interview over at The Blood Sprayer says it all: "It started off as an experiment, but Conjure was my very first feature length movie that I made myself. I play myself in the movie, and I draw all these really creepy tortured souls that come to life and try to kill me and my girlfriend. Eventually we get manifested into this painting of a South American castle. Survival horror ensues, and we need to find a way back. When it found distribution, the movie actually became the highest pre-selling horror movie of all time, according to Horror-Movies.com." Such (robotic) passion!