I think it is safe to say that The Conjuring is quite possibly the scariest film that I have seen this year, and a definite improvement over James Wan’s admirable, but overall disappointing, Insidious.
The film concerns the Perron Family – Carolyn and Roger, as well as their five daughters, Cynthia, Christine, Nancy, Andrea, and April – who have just moved into a farmhouse in Harrisville, Rhode Island. Upon their arrival, they are somewhat pleased. The house is already furnished and has a vintage aesthetic, but from what we can see, it could definitely use some remodeling. The air conditioner is on the fritz and some of the plumbing is out of whack, but all things considered, it could be worse. And, as it turns out, it definitely is.
As the Perron family will quickly learn, they are not entirely alone in the house. Several strange and unsettling occurrences take place. Carolyn wakes up with dark bruises on her arms, chest, and neck. The girls begin to see apparitions lurking around their room. There are a few instances where an unseen entity grabs one of the girls by her ankle, and attempts to pull her off of the bed. Things get downright disturbing when Roger discovers a boarded up stairwell that leads to a basement full of old antiques, including an old piano. When Carolyn suspects that one of her girls is hiding in the cellar, something pushes her down the stairs and attempts to lock her inside. After one of the girls is attacked – in one of many horrifying scenes – Carolyn seeks the help of Ed and Lorraine Warren, paranormal investigators and devout Christians who have dedicated their lives to ridding houses of demonic spirits.
Once Ed and Lorraine arrive, they immediately sense that the family is in great danger, and that this is no ordinary spirit. They set out to uncover the history behind the farmhouse, and once they do, they prepare to force the evil out of the house by way of an exorcism.
To say anything more would spoil the film. It is best to enter this film with very little knowledge of the story. I’m not even going to delve into the ultra-creepy, nightmare inducing sub-plot involving a doll named Annabelle. With that being said, know this: if you are looking for a good fright, The Conjuring is the film for you. A sense of evil permeates every frame of this film. James Wan barely gives us a moment to breathe. Once the film gets going, it is relentless. There are no cheap scares. The characters are all believable and they all make smart decisions that are rooted in reality. If you believe in the existence of God and the Devil, demons and ghosts, this may turn out to be one of the most terrifying experiences that you will ever have in a theatre. Of course, you will need to suspend your disbelief from time to time, but not so much that it takes you out of the film. These characters feel all too real and so do the situations. The film is drenched in mood and atmosphere, and this is essential for any “haunted house” feature. You can really immerse yourself in the world that has been created here. And for those of you that remember Joseph Bishara’s screeching strings in his score for Insidious, take note – the music that he provides here is just as blood-curdling and unforgettable.
The performances are all impressive. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga turn in two of their best performances as Ed and Lorraine Warren. This is a couple that the audience will immediately connect with. Farmiga is magnetic throughout. She loses herself in this character. Lili Taylor and Ron Livingston are equally memorable as the Parrons. Lili Taylor has a physically and emotionally demanding role, and she delivers.
James Wan was originally going for a PG-13 for The Conjuring, but the MPAA issued the R, insisting that the film was “too scary”. And they were right. It’s rated R for a reason. Not for excessive violence or torture-porn style gore, but because it succeeds in what it sets out to do – it scares the hell out of you.
Warner Brothers superb Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy release of The Conjuring should not disappoint fans. The special features are definitely worth the purchase, and include a sixteen minute retrospective on the lives of demonologists, Ed and Lorraine Warren; interviews with the Perron Family, and an eight minute piece, entitled “Scaring the @$*% Out Of You”, in which James Wan describes his handle of mood and atmosphere, and the way he uses these two things to, well, scare the shit out of you. The transfer of The Conjuring looks amazing, almost as good as it did in theatres. The DTS-HD sound mix gives the film just the right punch it needs to send shivers down your spine. Watch this one with the lights down and the volume up for full effect!
The Conjuring is a must-own for fans of the genre!
Adam is a hardcore film fanatic. Some would call him a film snob. They’re probably right. He’s been writing film reviews for as long as he can remember, and it is truly one of his passions. Aside from writing film reviews, he is also a screenwriter. He’s written two shorts in the last year, one of which he plans to shoot in the spring of 2013. His favorite filmmakers are Stanley Kubrick, Terrence Malick, Ingmar Bergman, Michael Haneke, and David Lynch – simply too many to list here.