As a rule, I don’t normally buy into these ‘based on a true story’ tales of horror. After all, it is a movie and things may have been embellished to ramp up the scares. But if you have even a passing knowledge of paranormal study, then you’ve surely heard of Ed and Lorraine Warren. Their reputation precedes them when it comes to all things paranormal. The Amityville house case, the demon murder trial, and now add the Perron family case, which is the basis for the new James Wan directed movie, The Conjuring.
Set in 1971, The Conjuring tells the story of Carolyn and Roger Perron and their five daughters, who have just moved into a dilapidated, old farmhouse set in the idyllic countryside of Rhode Island. Soon after, they discover a hidden cellar containing artifacts of past tenants, and that’s when things really take a turn for the worse. A dead family pet, clocks stopping at 3:07 am, mysterious noises, and the youngest daughter’s new imaginary friend, Rory. Undoubtedly spooked, the Perrons call on the Warrens to come take a look at their house. After discovering a history that dates back to the Salem witch trials, it’s a race against the clock to stop a demonic entity that is bent on destroying this family.
James Wan knows how to do horror. Sure, some of the film is reliant on cheap jump scares, but for the most part it takes its time in building an almost overbearing dread throughout the film’s almost two-hour runtime. Especially with the opening scene in which we find the Warren’s tending to an unrelated case involving a creepy little doll named Annabelle, which has firmly reestablished my fear of porcelain dolls. But there’s also the small touches, such as the way he uses the camera to give the film an almost 70’s horror feel, such as the long establishing shots, and the sweeping zooms that are that are similar to what Ti West did with his throwback to 70’s religious horror, The House of the Devil.
The cast also pulls together to sell the scares. Most notably, Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as the Warrens. It’s great to see the true-life history of the Warrens play out in this movie, and Wilson and Farmiga do an excellent job of selling the degree to which they sacrifice the well being of themselves to help others. Some of the more frightening moments come from their scenes, such as the aforementioned Annabelle doll scene. I also just enjoy watching Patrick Wilson work. The man can do no wrong in my opinion. Lili Taylor is also amazing in her return to the horror genre, playing the main victim of the demonic entity. Her turn from innocent mother to totally manevolent force is hard to watch, but that’s just because she does it so convincingly. Ron Livingston also does a fair job in his role as the father of a very frightened family, doing everything in his power to protect them.
I know Wan is gearing up to take over the Fast & Furious series, but I hope he finds time to come back to the horror genre soon. You could easily bring back Wilson and Farmiga, and develop an entire series following the Warrens and their other cases. Just think of all of the potential their haunted trophy room holds. In the meantime though, we at least have Wan’s Insidious Chapter 2 to look forward to.
If you’re a fan of the horror genre, and want a good scare, then I couldn’t recommend The Conjuring enough. It’s a nice break from the huge summer blockbusters, and it’s just a really fun movie to watch with a packed audience.