Director: James Wan.
Screenplay: Chad Hayes, Carey Hayes.
Starring: Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Lili Taylor, Ron Livingston, Shanley Caswell, Hayley McFarland, Joey King, Mackenzie Foy, Kyla Deaver, Shannon Kook, John Brotherton, Sterling Jerins.
“Want to play a game of hide and clap?”
Having already had a hand in fuelling the string of torture porn horrors when he began the “Saw” franchise in 2004, director James Wan opts for a more retrained approach to his latest horror. “The Conjuring” harks back to vintage horror movies of the ’70’s where atmosphere takes precedence over shock tactics. As a result, it manages to be one of the more successful horror movies of recent times.
Up rooting to a rural Rhode Island house, Roger Perron (Ron Livingston), his wife Carolyn (Lili Taylor) and their five daughters get more than they bargained for when strange and terrifying phenomena begin to plague their lives within their new home. Desperate for answers, they enlist the help of Psychic investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) but even this experienced couple find the haunting beyond anything they’ve witnessed before.
When it comes to horror, I’m a hard viewer to please. Even more so, when one from the genre proclaims to be “based on a true story”. This label can sometimes be a hindrance as it really has to convince me, whereby others might be more willing to readily accept it. For the most part, it works here as the characters of Ed and Lorraine Warren where actual paranormal investigators that worked on the Amityville case which was brought to the screen in Stuart Rosenberg’s 1979 film “The Amityville Horror“. Anyone familiar with that movie will see the similarities involved. In fact, James Wan models “The Conjuring” on many films from that era. Even the 70’s style and attire help in taking us back there but it’s his simplicity and refusal to go for cheap jump-scares that is most admirable. Instead, he adopts a more psychological approach by staging the tension and suspense in small doses. Of course, the usual machinations and conventions are customary; there are things that go bump in the night, freaky-eyed dolls, the suggestion of things lurking under the bed and, of course, the proverbial creaking doors that open and close by themselves. Wan has to be given credit for their success, though. His power of suggestion is what keeps the film ticking over and his more than reliable cast help immeasurably despite their abundance of stilted dialogue. As is the case with most horror films, though, revelations must be made and when they are, the film starts to lose some credibility and that “based on a true story” tag comes back to haunt it as much as the characters are haunted. It’s such a shame that Wan’s skilful and authentic chills are wasted in the final third but up until then, he conjures an effective and frightening piece of work.
After “Insidious chapter 2“, James Wan will, apparently, be leaving horror behind and moving on to pastures new. If this proves to be the case, then he will have left the horror genre with one that’s worthy of note from recent times.
Trivia: The state of Rhode Island does not require home sellers to disclose documented paranormal and supernatural hauntings to potential buyers. This is why the Perrons were unaware of all previous events.