Despite its generically lame title, The Conjuring is the scariest film that I’ve seen in years. I was expecting just another gory, run-of-the-mill B-movie, but this old-school spook-fest is part Poltergeist, part Exorcist, and all about making your skin crawl. I was shocked not only by the creepiness of this film, but also by how damned good it is.
This film is loosely based on real-life events surrounding the original “ghostbusters,” paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. Set in the early 1970s, the husband and wife team are called on to help a family that is being terrorized by supernatural forces that inhabit their Rhode Island home. Crazy creepiness ensues and there’s really nothing happening here that you haven’t already seen dozens of times before, but nevertheless, somehow director James Wan (Insidious) manages to make it all seem fresh and original.
Written by Chad and Carey Hayes (House of Wax), the story of The Conjuring centers mostly on the real-life Perron family haunting that took place in their secluded farmhouse outside of Harrisville, Rhode Island. The cast of this film does an excellent job and includes Vera Farmiga (Norman Bates Mom in Bates Motel) as Lorraine Warren, Patrick Wilson (Nite Owl from Watchmen) as Ed Warren, Lili Taylor as mother Carolyn Perron, Ron Livingston as father Roger Perron, and a standout performance by young Joey King (who you’ll recognize from White House Down) as one of the Perron’s five daughters.
The Conjuring is one of those haunted house films that makes you want to yell to the characters on the screen, “Get…out…of…the…house!” The home has all the telltale signs of a place one should never, ever enter, but that’s all part of the fun. What makes it even more unsettling is that it is based on actual events as documented by the Warrens and the Perron family.
Over the past decade I’ve become very disheartened by the state of the horror film genre, which has increasing leaned more towards torture-porn that is not scary, but is just disturbing – not only because of its grisly subject matter, but also because there is a large cluster of people out there who actually enjoy watching human mutilation. Now, that’s frightening.
For me the turning point of the genre, from scary to depravity, began with the film Saw (2004), which, for the most part, was an original and decent movie, but it started a wave of degradingly evil films that have kept one-upping each other until we now have cinematic trash like The Human Centipede in theaters. I largely (and probably unjustly) blamed Saw creator and director James Wan for this ugly turn of events, so you can imagine my surprise to find he is also responsible for directing The Conjuring. I now applaud him for taking the genre back to where it belongs.
After a lifetime of watching spooky movies (I saw The Exorcist in 1974, when I was 12 years old), I’ve become pretty jaded in that I didn’t think there was anything left that could actually scare me at the movies. I’m very excited to say that The Conjuring has proven me wrong. This film took me back to being a child who is afraid of what’s under the bed and what’s hidden behind the bedroom door. In fact, just writing this review I’m getting goose-bumps all over again.
The Conjuring hasn’t reinvented the old-fashioned scary flick, but this movie certainly reinvigorates the genre with unconventional camera angles, non-digital effects and ultra-creepy atmosphere. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if this movie becomes the sleeper hit of the summer, but you won’t be doing much sleeping after seeing it. Grade: 8/10
Photos © 2013 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.