Release date: 18th July 2013

Director: James Wan

Cast: Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Ron Livingston, Lili Taylor

Review by Peter Gray

Like many a horror film that has come before, ‘The Conjuring’ is basing itself on actual events.  Just how much truth there is to this claim is another story but the advertisements are hyping up that the family involved have kept their story quiet for 30 years believing the public would’ve been too disturbed to know the truth.  Calling in real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren to determine just what was in their house terrorising them, the Perron family bared their ghostlike activity in the hopes of exorcising whatever entity had invaded them.

With things going bump in the night, the family dog refusing to enter the home, and demonic like figures presenting themselves to the family children, ‘The Conjuring’ very much plays by the conventions of a traditional haunted house horror film, bringing to mind such classic films as ‘The Amityville Horror’ and ‘Poltergeist’, but even with every faux jolt and been-there-done-that scare tactic, it still manages to be very scary and extremely effective.  Director James Wan has a knack for the horror genre and it’s safe to say he’s almost perfected it having debuted with the more gore-heavy ‘Saw’ before working his towards ‘Insidious’, a film ‘The Conjuring’ can liken itself to in a number of ways.

One thing that proves most valuable is the characterizations of the Perron family and the Warrens as the human element brought to the film here adds a layer of realism which only increases the terror we feel as an audience.  Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor star as Roger and Carolyn Perron, a simple, working class couple with 5 daughters, who move into a large country estate hoping for a new lease on life only to find themselves the unwilling victims in a household that homes a dark past.  Both Livingston and Taylor not being the most recognisable names help their performances appear more natural providing a nice offset to the more well-known Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as the Warrens, Ed and Lorraine.  As a married couple who are both experts in the paranormal it’d be an easy trick to fall into depictions that are heightened and more caricaturist but Wilson and Farmiga play it straight, delivering a strong believability to their characters that so desperately want to help but carry their own demons around, particularly Lorraine.

Given that it is based on true events, the setting of the 1970’s also proves a positive as it’s not only an additive to the authenticity of the story but that retro feel harkens back to the classics of the genre.  It’s also refreshing to be able to immerse yourself in a time when mobile phones and the many outlets of social media were obsolete, allowing such intense sequences as investigating the strange noises coming from the basement to play out in a more traditional fashion as a constant cell light is nowhere near as effective as a flickering match being used to guide the way.  As for the scares, well when looking back on them they seem so predictable and archetypal yet in the moment they provide ample shock; loud sudden noises being the prime culprit but Wan does serve up some genuine dread when the characters play a game called ‘hide and clap’ which sent genuine shivers down my spine and coaxed quite the reaction from the surrounding audience.

The culmination of the film is perhaps where it ultimately lets itself down as ‘The Conjuring’ becomes just another horror film about ghosts and possession, and given how unaffectedly creepy and intense proceedings had been to this point, it feels slightly like a missed opportunity but nonetheless what has been created here is truly one of the strongest entrants in the horror genre we’ve seen this year – and without a copious amount of blood too.

My rating 3.5/5 (Conjures up eerie entertainment)

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