It’s one thing when a movie says that it is going to make the hair on the back of your neck stand on end, and something completely different when it ACTUALLY does. The Conjuring, while having a distinct lack of actual conjuring in it, is a bone-chilling ode to genuinely moody and atmospheric horror that doesn’t need torture porn or buckets of blood to get its point across.
Based on a true story, paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) work to help a family terrorized by a dark presence in their newly purchased farm house. Forced to confront this powerful entity that wants to kill everyone who steps in the house harm, the Warrens find themselves caught up in the most terrifying case of their entire lives.
Best known for the Saw franchise, director James Wan has stepped up his game with The Conjuring to craft an effective and atmospheric cinematic event that is reminiscent of movies like The Changeling, Don’t Look Now, The Exorcist and even some of the creepier moments ever put to screen by the master himself, Alfred Hitchcock. With some amazing camera work, using long shots along with excellent use of focus, lighting and framing, the tension was ramped up far more than I ever expected. It never goes for cheap jump scares or well travelled storytelling scare tactics, instead it goes out of its way to make you feel as uneasy as humanly possible. There were no cheap reveals in order to show off a funky looking terrifying entity, but it kept us on edge with exceptionally played moments.
Screenwriters Chad and Carey Hayes follow the horror mould to a tee, making for an incredibly earnest experience that make it easier to buy into and while the dialogue was bordering on corny at times, the film allows us to laugh when they want us to and be on the edge of our seat feeling the dread of it all only a minute or two later. Along with a stunning musical score that keeps you glued to the screen, this ode to some of the more classic psychological horrors in recent memory keeps us transfixed and seeps into our skin.
Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga do a wonderful job of playing it all 100% straight allowing us to get wrapped up in this incredible story. Their characters have to play it emotionless while slowly letting the plight of the family wear on them both to the point where their characters were equally as terrified as the family who has to live with this dark force tormenting them all. Lily Taylor was an inspired choice to play Carolyn Perron as she never plays the role as a victim. No one in this film is truly helpless, but in the face of a force they can’t even begin to understand, Taylor brings a genuine and real sense of terror to the role. Ron Livingston was fine as her husband Roger Perron and of their five daughters many people will recognize Shanley Caswell, Hayley McFarland and Joey King from the likes of The Descendants, the TV show Lie To Me and this summer’s White House Down, respectively. From top to bottom this entire ensemble truly accepted and bought into the nature of the project which only enhanced how damn effective it all was.
I have no doubt that when all is said and done The Conjuring will in time get mentioned with some of the iconic tension filled classics. It doesn’t only just generate some fun, scary moments, but it will make you pause the next time a door creeks, or you hear a weird noise coming from the basement.
Cast: Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Lily Taylor, Ron Livingston
Directed by: James Wan
Top image: A scene from The Conjuring. Courtesy Warner Bros.