Scream Right Up To Your Multiplex for ‘The Conjuring’”
“The Conjuring,” a spine-tingling true horror tale, evokes the creepy atmosphere of classic ‘70s horror movies like “Let’s Scare Jessica To Death,” “The Changeling” and “The Legend of Hill House.” Director James Wan (“Saw”) arranges a sophisticated cast of actors who treat the supernatural with realism and true terror.
Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) are esteemed ghost-hunters. The Catholic Church entrusts them to participate in, but not lead, exorcisms, and they have been responsible for cleaning many haunted houses. As the pre-credit crawl reveals, one story the Warrens had always avoided publicizing because of the gruesome nature involved the mystery surrounding a possession in 1971. This film brings that story to light.
Roger (Ron Livingston) and Carolyn (Lili Taylor) Perron move into a beautiful isolated house with their five precocious daughters and almost immediately sense a malevolent presence. Something evil lives inside their house and as one of the young girls reveals, this entity wants the Perron family dead.
Wan wisely hires actors known for prestige projects and the cast brings their A-game. Farmiga and Wilson sell the Warrens’ integrity. They know that their reputation as kooks precede them, but they treat their job with resolution and the methodical analysis of accountants. Taylor — who, like Farmiga, first found fame in low-budget vanguard films — is heartbreaking as the protective mother who feels powerless to save her girls. Livingston adds another level of desperation as he can barely afford to provide for his children and must drive his tractor rig long distances at half his normal rate just to stay above water.
All five of the girls experience dreadful situations, but the talented young actresses never sink to histrionics. The fear in their eyes and the cracks in their voices always seem genuine.
The screenplay, by brothers Chad and Carey Hayes, doesn’t waste time with clichés like the skeptic who refuses to believe in ghosts and demons. It knows audience came to be frightened and its barebones approach, while still focusing on fully-realized characters, is a welcome change.
Director Wan is neither grotesque nor over-indulgence, a surprise to audience who know him from his ultra-violent “Saw” films. All the scares are warranted and earned. His camera appears to be tied to a spider: twisting, climbing walls, shooting upside down. The camera itself appears to be malicious.
A haunting nightmare, “The Conjuring” gives audiences both laughs and shrieks, sometimes at the same time.