Directed by: James Wan
Written by: Chad Hayes and Carey Hayes
Starring: Lili Taylor, Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Ron Livingston
Lorraine and Ed Warren are probably the most well-known paranormal investigators of all time. Their cases have inspired several films, including The Amityville Horror (1979) and A Haunting in Connecticut (2009). Now comes The Conjuring, a film adaptation of their experiences at a farmhouse in Rhode Island in the early seventies.
The Perron clan (mom, dad and five daughters) moves into an old farmhouse that they purchased at auction, and things immediately go awry. The girls start seeing strange people in their house, mom Carolyn gets mysterious bruises, the stench of death hovers in the house and slamming doors are a nightly ritual. The exhausted and frightened family seeks out the help of Lorraine and Ed, who frequently lecture at a local college. You know the rest of the story; some simple sleuthing uncovers a chilling past of the property, and the house appears to be possessed by a demonic presence. Naturally this all leads to the need for an exorcism.
Sounds fairly rote for a haunted house movie, doesn’t it? Don’t let the familiarity fool you. The Conjuring is truly a terrifying movie, thanks in large part to director James Wan (Saw, Insidious). The progression of his directing skills is evident in the film. Using great restraint, Wan slowly builds the tension and eschews the standard cheap scares. When a ball rolling across a floor makes my hair stand on end, a horror movie has succeeded in spectacular fashion.
Another thing that The Conjuring has working in its favor is a superb cast. Patrick Wilson (Insidious) and Vera Farmiga (Orphan) play Ed and Lorraine. Both actors are carving out horror niches in their careers. Ron Livingston plays Roger Perron, but the true star of the movie is Lily Taylor as Carolyn Perron. It’s a physically and emotionally demanding role, and the entire believability of the story rests squarely on her shoulders. She easily rises to the task. The five sisters are also well acted, resulting in three-dimensional characters that the audience can connect with. This makes the third act even more harrowing to watch.
Immaculate set design transports the viewer straight into the seventies. The clothing, the hairstyles, even the wallpaper is carefully selected to convey the look and feel of the era. This complements the whole “based on a true story” element of the movie. Though it is easy to scoff when a movie claims it is based in truth, here it’s a moot point. The Conjuring is one scary movie, period. — Shannon