Cert: 15 Runtime: 112 mins Director: James Wan Cast: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Lili Taylor, Joey King and Ron Livingston
When the music stops, you’ll see him in the mirror standing behind you
In 1971, Carolyn (Lili Taylor)and Roger Perron (Ron Livingston) move their family into a dilapidated Rhode Island farm house and soon strange things start happening around it with escalating nightmarish terror. In desperation, Carolyn contacts the noted paranormal investigators, Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga), to examine the house. What the Warrens discover is a whole area steeped in a satanic haunting that is now targeting the Perron family wherever they go. To stop this evil, the Warrens will have to call upon all their skills and spiritual strength to defeat this spectral menace at its source that threatens to destroy everyone involved. This latest movie from Saw director James Wan goes down a fairly traditional haunted house film route. In it, a regular family move into a new home and are immediately terrorised by a malevolent ghost; a married couple who specialise in dealing with paranormal activity are called in to help exorcise the evil spirit. It was seemingly based on a true story. From the above synopsis you could be forgiven for thinking that this is a re-tread of the likes of The Amityville Horror and Poltergeist. And I suppose in many ways you would be correct as the influence of these types of films is pretty evident. But that would only be half the story because The Conjuring is a film that definitely stands up on its own right and for my money is one of the very best horror films of the last few years. The chief reason for this is simply that at times it is very scary indeed.
It’s not a graphic horror film at all; it relies on the fear of the unknown and the unseen. It combines lots of the things that make traditional ghost stories so sinister – an old house, a hidden room, a witch, tragic histories, possession, creepy old children’s toys and, of course, well-placed jump scares. This movie has all of these elements and uses them well. It doesn’t necessarily bring a lot of new things to the genre but what it does do is expertly arrange several traditional ideas into a very satisfying whole.On top of all this, it’s a very well-acted affair. Particularly impressive are Vera (The Departed) Farmiga and Patrick (Hard Candy) Wilson who play the paranormal experts. They have a definite chemistry with one-and-other and bring a solid believability to their characters. And pleasingly they play things completely straight. Also of interest is the time period. Seeing as this is based around true events, its set in 1971. As well as being more authentic to the story, this has the added benefit of having a retro feel that harks back to the classic 70’s American horror movies in which it derives much of its influence. And there is something refreshing in immersing yourself in a world without mobile phones and tweeting; a world without such things seems to work better as far as traditional haunted house stories go. Overall, this is an excellent horror film. If I had to criticise it in one way it would simply be that the intense finale wasn’t as creepy as the build-up. The reason for that is really down to the fact that the slower build-up allows for moments that hit you out of left-field from nowhere and the quieter more deliberately paced sequences can be constructed up to a real genuine fright scene. By the end we know the source of the haunting and we are constantly tensed up during the final encounter meaning it doesn’t have the same impact as the earlier scary moments. But I have to emphasise that this is really a very minor point and I really highly recommend The Conjuring to horror fans and more specifically those who like films about ghosts.