The Conjuring (2013)

The ConjuringIt’s 1971, and within days of moving into their new home in Rhode Island the Perron family are experiencing paranormal activity: mother Carolyn (Lili Taylor) is waking up with unexplained bruises, daughter Christine (Joey King) is being woken by a tugging on her leg and youngest April (Kyla Deaver) has befriended an invisible boy associated with a strange music box. When their dog is murdered and Andrea (Shanley Caswell) is attacked in her room, the family get in touch with renowned paranormal investigators Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) seeking help.

The following review contains quasi-spoilers for Drew Goddard’s The Cabin In The Woods.

Perhaps best known for their work on the Amityville haunting, the Warrens are no strangers to the big screen, with films The Amityville Horror and The Haunting in Connecticut both based on encounters from their career. This particular adaptation has been in the works for almost twenty years, since producer Tony DeRosa-Grund first heard the recorded interview with Carolyn Perron (recreated for the finished film) and pitched his take on the story. The film finally gathered momentum when DeRosa-Grund joined forces with Chad and Carey Hayes, and attached one James Wan to direct.

In this time the focus had shifted from the Perrons to the Warrens, with Wilson and Farmiga eventually tasked with bringing the demonologists to life, following numerous meetings with Lorraine. Exorcists have become almost as ubiquitous as hauntings in the horror genre, with The Last Exorcism, The Exorcism of Emily Rose and The Rite focusing at least in part on the priesthood (while Wan’s own Insidious featured paranormal investigators that all but stole the show), yet The Conjuring manages to overcome the various cliches not by subverting them but by embracing the similarities, and casting two very strong actors.

It’s a sensibility that runs right through The Conjuring, with the script acting as a sort of Greatest Hits of the haunted house sub-genre. Weary dogs, slamming doors, creepy children, kamikaze birds and possessed puppets each make an appearance, to the point that the film begins to feel like a reaction to The Cabin In The Woods. A character even explains, maybe for the first time ever, why they don’t just pack up and leave. Indeed, having expelled a demon during a pre-titles sequence, the Warrens place the conduit in question in a room containing artifacts from each of their cases. Had the film not been based on a true story (another genre staple) then you could almost imagine a melee of paranormal re-activity awaiting the family when they return home. But even that’s been done before in Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed.

What The Conjuring may lack in originality, then, it more than makes up for in reverence. The period setting is beautifully done and gives the film its own personality, while the bulging ensemble — later bolstered by a skeptical policeman (John Brotherton) and a frequent collaborator (Shannon Cook) — keep things moving. One stand-out scene involves Lorraine taking in laundry, only for a sheet to blow free of the line, wrap momentarily around an invisible figure, and then disappear from sight. It doesn’t even last for a second, but thanks to Wan and Farmiga it is more effective than any comparable effects-driven set piece. I’m getting goosebumps just thinking about it.

4-Stars

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About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

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