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Review: The Conjuring

Review: The Conjuring


Announced late last year, ‘The Conjuring’ has been increasingly on my radar the more and more I heard about it. With a promotional campaign that has included actual interviews with Lorraine Warren (one of the paranormal investigators depicted in the film) and actual audio clips from the interviews with the Perron family, this was a ‘true story’ film that seemed to have more bite to it’s bark. Throw in James Wan in the directors chair (the guy responsible for the Saw series and Insidious), and I was VERY interested in seeing this film.

Set in 1971, the film’s plot is your standard haunted house fair. A family of eight, led by parents played by Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor, have just moved into a big country house beside a lake. Idyllic, tranquil – that is, until evil spirits start terrorizing them and making a mess of things altogether. Cue Ed and Lorraine Warren, played by Patrick Wilson and Vera farmiga, called in to see if they can’t help the family and perhaps rid them of these evil spirits. It all reads very standard. But therein lies the beauty of this film, it’s so wonderfully, sadistically standard. This film could have been made 30 years ago and it would have stood very well alongside The Amityville Horror and The Evil Dead as another addition to reasons why a house in the middle of nowhere is simply not a good idea. Ever.

From the opening credits, ‘The Conjuring’ is out to scare you, to make you feel uneasy. Forget jump-scares and horrific amounts of gore, this film is about unnerving you, about making you think twice about turning the light off at night, and it does that job incredibly well. Utilizing a lot of slow burn and tension in the film, James really makes you afraid to see what happens next, and wondering if you even want to in the first place. Making ‘Insidious’ look like a practise run of sorts, James times his appearance of these spirits very well, making sure you see them enough to know they’re there, but never enough to predict when you will see them again. This is my favourite aspect of this film, there is a great unpredictability to the scares in this film that really keeps you paying attention, and really makes you wonder where and when the next ghostly happening will occur, and who will be the target. There were several scenes that had me looking away from the screen in anticipation of what might be coming, including one particularly horrifying scene involving a doll and a rocking chair that made me almost forget I was watching a film in the cinema and scream in genuine fear.

That’s another aspect to this film, it feels like a genuine loving tribute to horror films of old. From the possessed doll motif to the whole haunted house setting, even to the way The Conjuring logo appears after a brief prologue at the beginning of the film, it’s all presented like a love letter to the the horror films that defined the genre, but with enough new character to the film to make it also feel like a valid update and a welcome breath of fresh air. At times, it felt like the film-makers were just having fun scaring the audience and nerding out at the same time, using techniques they learned from watching horror films growing up.

‘The Conjuring’ is a really, really good horror film. It is genuinely scary, and it is also genuinely entertaining. Clocking in at just over two hours, this is a long film, and there are parts that don’t work quite as well as others. The possessed doll motif was good, but left a little to be desired, and the special effects occasionally looked a bit, well, obviously special effects. The cast are spot on, with each of the young Perrons, all of which are girls, playing their roles very well, none of them seeming to steal the spotlight or be competing for your attention. Ed and Lorraine Warren and their crew, completed by policeman John Brotherton and cameraman Shannon Kook are the highlights though, providing great performances and welcome comic relief at the right moments. If you like grass-roots horror that isn’t aspiring to trends or trying to be flashy, this is for you.

Catch The Conjuring in cinemas now, and James Wan’s next horror film, Insidious 2, in cinemas in September.