Frightening, well acted and well directed, “The Conjuring” is the Haunted House movie that horror fans have been waiting for. It skillfully savors the slight chills in the early going, then indulges in some outright jump in your seat moments before heading into the no holds barred ending.
This is a movie that is certain to be discussed as one of the best of the year, and likely to claim a spot in the discussion of all time great haunted house movies in years to come.
When the Perron family (with Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor as Father and Mother) moves into a new home, they quickly realize that not all is as it seems. The family dog won’t enter the house, the clocks stop every night at a little past three, and they’re constantly experiencing strange sounds and smells. They soon discover a boarded up basement filled with dusty antiques. Creepy quickly turns to frightening though, as the oddities and incidents become more violent and undeniably supernatural.
This leads them to seek out the help of Ed and Lorraine Warren (played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga), a married couple who are professional investigators into the paranormal. The audience is introduced to the couple in an opening sequence that shows them resolving a case involving a creepy, possessed doll. Later, as they lecture at a nearby University, Mrs Perron approaches them and pleads for their help. The Warrens agree, and immediately upon visiting are overwhelmed by the feeling of malevolence within the house. They begin a full scale investigation and discover that the property has a history of violent spiritual occurrences dating back for centuries. From there, the couple and their team strive to find a way to exorcise the spirits haunting the house, in spite of the inherent danger.
Will the Warrens be able to cleanse the house of the forces within?
Like most haunted house movies, “The Conjuring” begins slowly with strange and suspicious activity and builds until the signs of haunting are undeniable. Stopped clocks and things that go bump in the night eventually give way to physical encounters and glimpses of ghosts. It’s a tried and true formula, but “The Conjuring” really executes it in a masterful way. Curious events, strange phenomena and a boarded up, cobwebby basement lead to apparitions, flying objects and outright possessions. It’s a perfectly paced escalation that will have people constantly gasping and clutching the arm rests of their seats… just when they get accustomed to one level of scares, “The Conjuring” raises the bar to a new height.
Many haunted house movies begin well and end poorly, though. I’ve come to believe that it’s easy for movies about hauntings to be scary in the creaking floorboards/slowly opening doors/shadows moving behind people phase. Most of them, however, lose their balance as they enter their last act and reveal their “shark”. That’s certainly no issue here, though, thankfully. “The Conjuring” begins as a ghost story and ends as an exorcism movie. The shift in tone helps things stay fresh and helps avoid the typical “show the ghost” issues. Also, by the third act, you’re completely engrossed in the story and attached to the characters, so when the finale approaches and things hit a crescendo, you’re completely invested. The movie doesn’t overplay its hand, either; it skillfully orchestrates a batshit crazy, super intense ending without blowing the carefully established tone of suspense.
The acting is solid across the board, from the child performances to Livingston and Taylor as frightened parents to Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as Ed and Lorraine Warren. It’s also extremely well directed by James Wan (“Saw”, “Insidious”), who uses fantastic shots and great editing to keep things visually interesting and help emphasize the scares.
“The Conjuring” is a movie that chills and frightens from beginning to end, with a clever, suspenseful haunting build up that leads to an explosive finale. It has genuine moments of shock and fright, great characters and solid acting. This is a film that has an excellent shot at my top ten this year, and potentially could even be considered for movie of the year (if nothing wows me in the second half). I absolutely hope to see some form of sequel that focuses on the further adventures of the Warrens and their paranormal investigations, it would be a shame to squander such a high quality premise.
I’m a complete and utter wimp when it comes to horror films, particularly paranormal ghost stuff. But my desire to see good films is compelling me to see this anyway, even though I’ll most likely end up crying!
Ahhhh hah ha!! 😀
Yeah, I have to warn you then, this one really might scare you! 😀 In a good way, of course!!!
I was so frustrated not reading your review for a week until my daughter was available to go. I turned to her and said, “that’s how you make a scary movie”. She only saw half of it because she hid her face so often. Easily in my top five so far this year. Along with Evil Dead, we got two great horror films this year. Nice to see that you are as impressed as I was.
“I was so frustrated not reading your review for a week”
LOL. It’s still here once you got to see it man! Not goin’ anywhere!
Yeah, I read your review. Glad you were a fan too. I think it’s a pretty rare gem. I agree, too, two great horror movies so far this year, and the year’s not over yet!! 😯
I would agree about the solid acting part and I enjoyed myself watching the film. Similarly, it was also refreshing to see actors with screen presence in a horror film. However, while this film had a few scares I certainly would not call it terrifying more like creepy and suspenseful. This is coming from a horror movie wimp. For instance I paced around the house and could not sit still while watching The Hills Have Eyes. Still enjoyed the film but really went in expecting more scares.
Well, that’s too bad. Maybe though, because you don’t see as many horror movies, you don’t realize just how many of them completely suck. LOL! 😀
Anyways, I loved this one. Creepy/Scary/Dramatic whatever you want to call it, I thought it was rock solid! 😀
Pingback: The Conjuring Review: The Anti-Ambien | Rorschach Reviews
Totally and utterly agree! Finally a fantastic horror film which isn’t relying on loud bangs and mad cuts to give the notion of a scare. Instead we’re given a perfect ghost story which uses ambiance and characters you care about to bring around some solid scares. Brilliant film.
Whoo hoo! Glad you liked it! 😀 I spent this morning trying to convince my sister she needs to see it even though she’s a ‘fraidy cat! LOL
You’re 100% right, the substance of the film in terms of characters and ambiance (nice word) carries this movie SUCH a long way! 😀
Pingback: The Conjuring (2013) Review | Tim's Film Reviews
Can’t wait to see it, but don’t have the courage yet!! Great insights in your review!!!
Its awesome, you’ll love it. Wait til it hits home video so you can get startled and be scared in private, LOL
Wow……….finally a very, very good horror film. The last one I dragged myself to see was “Drag Me To Hell” and THAT was a waste of time and money.
The house, the reflections, the tree, the doll……and the perfect cast (Farmiga was a revelation) all made for an all-round great film.
The perfect balance between uneasiness and over-the-top horror! The photography was outstanding.
Great work, but I do hope there is no sequel.
Sorry to break it to you, but a sequel is already in the works. 😦 I’m pretty psyched about it though, as long as the principals all stay in place, there’s no reason we can’t get a second serving that’s just as good as the first.
In other news, I liked Drag Me to Hell, but I’ll freely acknowledge that Sam Raimi horror movies always have to be taken with a bit of a grain of salt… he’s not shy at all about incorporating elements which are goofy or silly, you know?
Glad we agree on the conjuring though, it was awesome. 😀
Yeah, I guess we need to find out what Vera Farmiga saw at that last ‘haunting’ she attended and still has never revealed. Could be really intriguing! Now i’ve whet my own appetite.
It’s gonna be good, I’m telling ya. 😉 I cant wait!
Pingback: Review: ‘The Conjuring’ (2013) | Film Police