Three days after seeing The Conjuring, I think I’ve finally started breathing again, though I still don’t think I’m okay with hearing clapping. The Conjuring is not only one of the most intense, scary movies I’ve seen in a long time, but it’s extremely suspenseful as well! Hollywood has finally done the horror genre right with a film that harkens back to the golden era of The Shining and The Exorcist. Did I also mention that it’s based on a true story?! Remind me to never buy a fixer-upper house with lots of history. I’ll stick to apartment living for now.
One of the coolest things about The Conjuring is that Director James Wan (Saw) filmed the movie for a PG-13 audience. He wanted to prove to Hollywood that he could make a terrifying movie with a PG-13 rating, so there are barely any curse words, little gore, and no sex. Unfortunately, after members of the MPAA screened the film, due to the sheer scariness of the content, they rated it R. When Wan asked what he could take out to bring it back to PG-13, they told him nothing, the overall tone was just too frightening. If that doesn’t get you excited about the prospect of this film, I don’t know what will!
Based on a real case file from legendary, real-life paranormal investigators Ed (played by Patrick Wilson) and Judy Warren (Vera Farmiga), the film opens in Rhode Island during the early 1970s. At first there are two different story lines, one that focuses on the Warrens and some of their creepy cases and one that follows Roger and Carolyn Perron (Ron Livingston and Lily Taylor) and their five daughters who have just moved into an old farmhouse with a sinister history. As I’m sure you can imagine, these stories quickly converge after the Perron family find out they are not alone in their quaint farmhouse.
At first, the haunting seems innocent enough. Doors creak and slam shut without a person behind them. The voice of someone who is not a Perron child is heard during a game of hide and seek. However, the situation quickly escalates after two of the children are ripped out of sleep in the middle of the night during a ghostly encounter. Because they don’t have the funds to immediately move away from the house, the Perron family enlists paranormal experts to help. Now it’s up to demonologist Ed Warren and his clairvoyant wife Judy to save this family from malevolent spirits and give them back their life.
While The Conjuring does stay very true to the horror genre, complete with creepy children, creaking doors, and “don’t go down the stairs” moments, what really sets it apart is the fantastic directing and acting. The way Wan films the movie is an homage to past horror films. One shot in particular stands out as the coolest scene in a movie so far this year, a tribute to the famous hallway scene from The Shining. You’ll know it when you see it. He also finds a way to make a mundane game of hide-and-go-seek extra terrifying. Who knew clapping could be so creepy?
Wan does a fantastic job building the film’s suspense shot after shot. Even when I thought I was safe and could take my hands down from my eyes, he scared me. Not to mention, the scenes with the characters peering into a mirrored clown music box were as suspenseful as when you used a jack-in-the-box as a kid, only instead of jack, there is a ghost.
Apart from the excellent directing, the other standout about this movie is the acting. I don’t think there could have been better casting than Vera Farmiga (Up In The Air) and Patrick Wilson (Little Children) as the Warrens. They not only bring you into the 1970s but also bring the famous paranormal investigative couple to life, showing that they are the rock stars of their field. The Ghostbusters have nothing on them! Lily Taylor was also fantastic as the matriarch of the Perron family, taking a lot of the movie’s emotional core on her shoulders. Her character has the biggest character arc and she pulls off the transition amazingly.
Please go see The Conjuring this weekend. If for no other reason, your ticket purchase will let the movie studios know that THESE are the type of horror films we want to see, not the torture porn or found-footage films that have become so prevalent. It’s nice to finally have a scary movie that isn’t a sequel or remake and has so many edge-of-your-seat thrills, you feel like you just ran a marathon after you leave the theater. This is definitely a movie to see opening weekend and I hope it gets the box office numbers it deserves.
**Don’t miss the reference, at the end of the film, to another of the Warren’s most famous cases Amityville Horror!
My Review: A-