The Conjuring DVD Review
Directed by James Wan
Written by Chad Hayes and Corey Hayes
2013, Region 2 (PAL), 112 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
DVD released on 9th December 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
Joey King as Christine
Mackenzie Foy as Cindy
Stop me if you've heard this one before. 'Based on a true story', claims The Conjuring and all the promotional material which comes with it. Oh, pooh, that's what they all say. I've lost count of the amount of horror films I've seen, all bragging to be based upon real events. Well, in this case, there actually seems to be some truth to that boast. The characters in James Wan's The Conjuring are all real people, each of whom will tell you that the events depicted here actually happened. Whether they're telling the truth is another matter, but it's still a less tenuous link than any number of films supposedly 'inspired' by Ed Gein and his numerous dastardly deeds.
Paranormal detectives and husband-and-wife team Lorraine and Ed Warren investigate a particularly vicious haunting in the Perron family household. There they discover a house chock full to the brim with ghosts, not least an angry witch determined to make the Perrons suffer for their imagined crimes. And boy, do they suffer.
Nothing special on the surface, I had expected little from The Conjuring beyond a few jump-scares and a creepy doll. Part of a recent surge of haunted house films which appear to be slick and well-crafted but actually have very little to say (most notably, the incredibly disappointing Sinister) and from a Saw director, no less, I found myself unimpressed by its pedigree. Well, Wan pulls off quite the conjuring trick with this haunted house/possession story, being one of the best I have seen in years. Well-written, directed and acted throughout, it takes the impressive atmosphere of Wan's Insidious and puts it to good use in a tale which, once it gets started, never lets up.
Best reason to watch is the inspired teaming of Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as the Warrens. As a pair of real life Ghostbusters (or a seventies set Most Haunted) I could watch a whole series of movies featuring the pair, delving deep into their extensive case files (the Warrens are said to have investigated over 10,000 hauntings, possessions and the like). The much-advertised doll is in the film less than its promotional material would have you believe, but it's still an effective tool in the filmmakers' toybox. Suffer from automatonophobia? You may want to give this one a miss, brief as its appearances are.
The rest of the film's many scares come from every quarter – creepy sleepwalking children, spooky music boxes, mirror trickery, imaginary friends, dead dogs, bad basements and ghastly ghouls. At times, it resembles a smaller Cabin in the Woods, re-located to Patrick Wilson's mini-museum full of scary shit. The Monkey Shines reference is a particularly nice touch. While some of this will surprise fans of haunted house features, there's so much going on that it hits a lot more than it misses. There's something for all tastes, from demonic possession, to Paranormal Activity style bouncing off of the walls and furniture. The seventies setting somehow makes it even better, with Patrick Wilson rocking a particularly nifty sideburns, quiff and suit.
A surprisingly great piece of supernatural horror, The Conjuring is atmospheric, unsettling and a real blast to experience.
Video and Audio:
The video is presented in 2.40:1 aspect ratio and the audio is available as a choice of 5.1 or 2.0 surround.
The DVD comes with only one extra, a look at what scares audiences in a featurette titled Scaring the "@$*%" Out of You. The Blu-ray fairs better having this featurette, plus two more: The Conjuring: Face-to-Face with Terror and A Life in Demonology.