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The Conjuring

2013 | 112 min | R | 2.39:1

The Conjuring


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2 user reviews

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Theatrical release date

 19 July, 2013
 02 August, 2013

Country of origin

 United States

Box office




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Screenshots from The Conjuring Blu-ray

The Conjuring Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, July 18, 2013

This second wind in the directorial career of James Wan has been fascinating to watch. Almost killing his career with dreadful pictures such as “Death Sentence” and “Dead Silence,” Wan rebounded with the 2011 horror humdinger “Insidious,” which inched the helmer away from gore and noise, challenging him in the art of the scare. With a sharp visual sense and welcome patience for the haunted house subgenre, Wan found an ideal match to his sensibilities, now returning to the deep dark with “The Conjuring.” Again favoring tension over bedlam, Wan issues a similar but successful follow-up to “Insidious” (as opposed to “Insidious: Chapter 2,” also from Wan and due in September), finding proper beats of fright and family to play in this throwback endeavor.

In 1971, the Perron Family has moved into a rickety rural house they hastily purchased at a bank auction. Determined to build a comfortable home, Roger (Ron Livingston), wife Carolyn (Lili Taylor) and their five daughters have difficulty settling in, finding weird noises and smells upsetting, while evening activities of sleepwalking disrupt the routine. When the disturbances escalate with increasingly violent results, including extensive bruising on Carolyn’s body, the Perrons turn to the expertise of Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) and Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson), a pair of famous paranormal investigators sympathetic to the family’s poltergeist woes. Taking over the household to investigate the ghostly visitor, Lorraine and Ed discover a far more devious foe out to possess the Perrons, requiring the full extent of their gifts to help document and purge the demon from the house.

It turns out Lorraine and Ed are real paranormal experts, and “The Conjuring” is based on a case from the extensive Warren files, with Wan attempting to pass off the material as a true story. That’s a bit of a stretch, but time with the married ghostbusters is easily the most compelling part of the picture. Supportive and intelligent, the Warrens are treated with an unusual amount of respect by screenwriters Chad and Carey Hayes, who find a human side to the coupling. While their house is a shrine to their supernatural achievements (including the presence of a creepy doll that plays a part in the prologue), the Warrens are understanding, God-fearing, and determined to aid the Ferrons in their time of need, readily believing every word of their outrageous story since experience has taught them that demons and ghosts truly are an everyday occurrence. It’s refreshing to see such expertise handled with care, not suspicion or mockery, extending to a depiction of their faith, which helps to illuminate the way into the heart of evil.

What the Warrens are up against is a routine assortment of unexplained noises and troubled children, yet Wan only flirts with cliche, using horror tropes to generate panic while sharp characterizations do most of the heavy lifting, finding the family dynamic preserved inside the haunted house. And what an unstable abode it is, featuring a boarded up cellar Roger unwisely opens for inspection, and a haunted wardrobe that terrorizes the children. There’s also a warning shot in a children’s music box that promises a peek into the other side when wound up, leading to several scenes where Wan simply lingers on the inherent creepiness of the circus-themed item. For the first hour, “The Conjuring” is content to simply explore the haunting, visiting dark corners and chasing unusual sounds, trafficking in old-fashioned suspense that’s comfortable with freak-outs, not gross-outs. There’s also no stoppage during the build-up, with the script refusing to break the mood by disputing the Ferrons’ extraordinary claim of paranormal activity. Everything in the movie is treated with refreshing gravity.

“The Conjuring” doesn’t reach out and grab the viewer with gore, it’s more of a creep machine with some authentic scares, displaying Wan’s growing comfort with his newfound taste. There’s also a mood of retro entertainment, observing opening titles and the general atmosphere of the picture influenced by horror films of the 1970s, with their emphasis on a more grounded sense of the unknown. “The Conjuring” is smartly crafted, and while its suspense is competently executed, the feature is not a hyper creation with geysers of blood. It’s more restrained and layered, achieving anguish through familiarity, not shock value.

After providing evidence of a demonic presence and following procedural steps to secure a history of haunting, “The Conjuring” eventually settles on visceral spills and thrills, which include an extended exorcism showdown. “The Conjuring” doesn’t have much in the way of originality, yet Wan’s enthusiasm is infectious and his command of the unknown is thrilling at times. It’s commendable, entertaining work from the helmer, who once again trusts the art of suspense, finding another ghost story worth telling.

Starring: Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Lili Taylor, Ron Livingston, Joey King
Director: James Wan

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