The Conjuring Movie Review
Written by Ryan Holloway
Released by Warner Bros. UK
Directed by James Wan
Written by Chad Hayes and Corey Hayes
2013, 112 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
Released on 2nd August 2013
Vera Farmiga as Lorraine Warren
Patrick Wilson as Ed Warren
Lili Taylor as Carolyn Perron
Ron Livingston as Roger Perron
Shanley Caswell as Andrea
Hayley McFarland as Nancy
With the Paranormal Activity franchise growing tired and the word "remake" becoming just as unwelcome as a pesky poltergeist, horror fans have been left wondering when the next truly classic horror tale will hit our screens. Earlier this year Evil Dead actually succeeded in making us feel less dirty for saying remakes can work and when the trailer hit for James Wan's The Conjuring, fresh off the success of 2010's smash hit Insidious, there was a growing fear that it would be another case of great trailer, another wasted opportunity.
True-life stories too are often box office gold when it comes to horror and this puts The Conjuring in some pretty good company. The set up is familiar: it's 1971, the Perron family have just moved to their new house in Harrisville and pretty soon strange things begin to happen. Carolyn played by the wistfully authentic Lily Taylor and Roger, played by dough eyed Ron Livingstone, and their 5 daughters experience increasingly sinister goings on that admittedly we have seen before; dead dog, strange bruises and one of the daughters, Christine (Joey King), last seen as (spoiler) Rhaz Al Ghul's daughter in The Dark Knight Rises, has her leg pulled as she is sleeping.
World renowned paranormal investigators, the Warrens are soon called upon to help the harassed family who have grown desperate as the encounters get more and more aggressive.
The great news here is that despite the story, script and direction seemingly taken from the "What makes a good Horror Film" manual, Wan manages to make things feel fresh. Of course the real question is, is it scary? Well yes, it often uses tried and tested techniques, but there are some beautifully crafted moments that keep you on a plateau of terror rather than just going for the old open and shut mirrored bathroom cabinet schtick.
Among the scary dolls (tick) and the tension inducing use of mirrors (tick) and creepy music boxes (tick), it's during a game of hide-and-clap that things really ramp up as the game seems to have an unexpected player and leads to one of the film's more terrifying set pieces.
Another huge part of what makes The Conjuring work is the use of really good actors rather than A-list names drafted in to guarantee that opening weekend box office. Wan once again teams up with Patrick Wilson (Insidious) who along with the always reliable Vera Farmiga make up the ghostbusting duo on which this true story is based. This is a definite step up from Insidious and the non reliance on household names is also what makes The Conjuring a, dare I say it?, modern-day classic. The film is so well-crafted that in any other director's hands the cast would buckle under the weight of expectation from a hungry audience. That's not the case here, instead the cast is able to let the story and atmospheric cinematography from John R. Leonetti (Insidious) do a lot of the work, enabling them to make their characters as believable as possible which they do to huge effect.
It is truly a relief to see a film displaying a true passion for the genre and even when you can see the scare coming from a mile away it's the well crafted set up that heightens these moments and propels the film into a different calibre. There is nothing to say that horror always has to be wholly original to work as it's sometimes the familiar moments that remind us why we like horror in the first place.
Think The Exorcist meets The Amityville Horror (1979) and this film is every bit as good as that sounds. The Conjuring has made the horror film an event again.
Video, Audio and Special Features:
Video, audio and special features will not be graded as this was a screening.