Director: James Wan
Starring: Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Lili Taylor
I can’t describe how excited I was to watch The Conjuring. Since the day I heard about it, then when I watched the trailer…it just kept building up. Here was a movie that was right up by alley, plus, what horror and paranormal buff is not a fan of the Warrens? Yep, if you’ve been living under a rock, The Conjuring is about Ed and Lorraine Warren, and one of their cases. Well, I guess for the sake of due diligence (and in case you do happen to call a boulder your humble abode), I should give a bit more info on the Warrens. Ed and Lorraine are a husband and wife team of renowned demonologists and paranormal investigators, who in 1952 founded the New England Society for Psychic Research, and have since investigated some 10,000 claims. The movie is based on a particular occurrence from 1971, with the Perron family from New Hampshire.
The Conjuring starts slow, but that is actually a good thing. The pace allows you to not only get to know the Warrens as they investigate another one of their cases, but it also helps build the suspense until the “real” action happens. The story goes back and forth between shots of Lorraine and Ed giving their lectures in Universities, and the Perron family moving into their new farm house. At first the two stories run parallel to each other, but naturally it does not take long for the Perrons to start experiencing some really creepy shit. Within hours of being in the house, Roger finds a boarded up cellar they didn’t know was part of the house. Then, on their first night there for crying out loud (SPOILER ALERT – but just a little one), their dog Sadie mysteriously dies in the night. **A brief pause for a PSA: come on people, bring your dogs in for the night, will you??**. It all starts escalating from there. One of their daughters starts sleepwalking again, birds fly into the windows of the house, Carolyn wakes up covered in bruises, and clocks eerily stop working at exactly 3:07 every morning. Uh, oh…time to seek help. Carolyn attends one of the Warrens’ speaking engagements and convinces them to come investigate at their house.
The set up for the investigation was really interesting. I loved seeing the technology of the time being used to ghost hunt. The movie does take expected turns, but they do so beautifully. It’s like the writers knew what works and didn’t try to over complicate things. This approach, which some people may consider unoriginal, actually lets the movie breathe and the acting shine. And come on, you can know something is going to appear behind our protagonist, but that doesn’t take away from the fun of it! The Conjuring is deliciously atmospheric, which is absolutely my cup of tea; it is subtle for the most part, but in your face when it needs to be; creepy as heck, and it surprisingly has a heart. You really feel like this was a real story, with people who actually cared to help this family. While Patrick Wilson as Ed Warren is not hard to look at, Vera Farmiga as Lorraine is downright captivating. She doesn’t look like the real-life Lorraine, but she captured her essence perfectly!
As Christopher Golden mentions in his introduction to 20th Century Ghosts, most people who practice the art of the unsettling in the modern horror world too often go for the jugular, forgetting that the best predators are stealthy. That is exactly why I loved The Conjuring, and why I love movies that concentrate on plot and atmosphere. I don’t need to be slapped in the face with blood and guts (although fun sometimes) to feel like I watched a horror movie. That being said, I think The Conjuring will appeal to a wide audience, and it’s because it has all the makings of a classic. As I said when I left the movie theater: sometimes, you don’t need to innovate to tell a great story. The familiar and tried-and-true tales are popular for a reason. This movie is a must-see in my opinion, so, if you haven’t gathered by now, what I am saying is WATCH IT!