James Wan has made one of the best haunted house flicks. Fact. Insidious had my short hairs twisted so tight I sounded like Tiny Tim for a week after watching that flick. So it’s easy to understand why I had such high expectations for his follow-up The Conjuring. Working of a script by Chad and Cary Hayes ( Whose genre credits include House of Wax and The Reaping…. Not a great start) Wan decides to tackle the haunted house area again. And once again I sat in the theater with my hands over my eyes screaming like a little girl…. I don’t know why I keep doing this to myself.
The Conjuring is based on the true story of the Perron family and the events that occurred shortly after moving into a farmhouse in Harrisville Rhode Island. Pioneer ghost hunters, Ed and Lorraine Warren ( Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga), investigated the paranormal happens 30 plus years ago, but have stayed tight-lipped about….until now! (the pause for dramatic effect works better in person) Why exactly no one has chosen to talk about the events is never revealed in the film and I’m almost positive that it is nothing more than a marketing ploy. A quick Google search brings up hundreds of sites explaining the tale. Weird…. back to the review.
Shortly after the Perron family moves into said house spookiness starts to happen. We get all the standard happens: Clocks stop working at the same time, objects are moved without anyone being around and voices are heard. Also just as a basic rule of thumb, If ever you move into a new place and your small child has a new “imaginary” friend, pack up shop and move the hell out of there, because you my friend have a ghost. Of course Carolyn and Roger Perron ( Lilli Taylor and Ron Livingston) put all the money the had into the place and have no where else to go. So the whole “let’s ignore it and hope it goes away” approach is taken until the spirits in the house really hit the gas. With a family of five terrified girls Carolyn calls on the Warrens for help. This really pisses off the spirits and shit goes from bad to “seriously, why the hell are you letting your daughters stay here”. Okay it sounds like every other haunted house flick out, and mostly it is every haunted house flick, but trust me when I say The Conjuring is not to be overlooked.
James Wan works the scares well and let’s them lead to some of the most frightening scenes I have ever seen. Never once falling victim to the cliché scares or “jumps”. Wan handles each scene with a masterful respect for film making and the genre in whole. One of the most intense, disturbing moments in the film involves Christine Perron (Joey King) awakening in the night and seeing a “being” standing by the bedroom door. This is done with almost zero SFX and builds to a terrifying climax without ever once showing a ghost. BUT rest assure Wan doesn’t take the less is more approach through the entire film. We get a good look at all the ghosts and ghouls in all their terrifying splendor. For a movie with zero gore the SFX are outstanding and unnerving.
All the acting here is top-notch. With some pretty heavy hitters on board you really could expect nothing less. Patrick Wilson brings his A game and rarely does the man ever disappoint. As well as all of the daughters. My biggest gripe is Ron Livingston. Don’t get me wrong the guy does a good job, I just don’t understand casting some one as cool Livingston and not really using him. Walking out of the theater I took a look at the poster and saw his name and thought ” Oh shit, he was in that movie!”. Damn waste of talent there.
The Conjuring has the potential to be this generations defining horror film. James Wan is not afraid to take a different approach to tired genres and it really is paying off. It also doesn’t hurt that A list actors are now not afraid to do genre flicks ( You can thank Jason Blum for that my friends). Sadly Wan is taking a detour with his next flick ( Rumor has it he’s on board for Fast and Furious), but at least we only got to wait a couple of months for Insidious Chapter 2.