Reviewed by Kevin Finnerty
“Something awful happened here, Ed,” says Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) to her husband (Patrick Wilson) and partner in investigating the paranormal after agreeing to help a family who are being terrorized by a dark entity in their new home in the creepy horror film The Conjuring.
In 1971 the Perron family moved into what they believed to be their dream home in Rhode Island, with their daughters fighting over who gets which bedroom and the parents Carolyn (Lili Taylor) and Roger (Ron Livingston) happy that they finally have a house to call their own. It’s not long however before odd and strange things begin happening in the house at night. All the clocks stop at shortly after 3am, there’s a powerful, rank odor that seems to come and go, and there’s knocking on doors when everyone in the house is in bed. After one particularly horrifying night when two of their daughters – Christine (Joey King) and Nancy (Hayley McFarland) – are terrorized by an unseen being which sends the girls into hysterics, Carolyn and Roger decide to seek out help.
Carolyn attends a seminar at a college campus and meets Ed and Lorraine Warren who are well-known paranormal investigators. Pleading with them that there is something wrong in her home, the Warrens agree to visit the house and see if they pick up on anything supernatural. It only takes a few minutes for Lorraine, who is a psychic and can sometimes see spirits, to realize that this is going to be the most dangerous case she and her husband have ever taken on.
Based on a true story, The Conjuring is an effectively creepy, spine-tingling first-rate horror film reminiscent of other great ghost movies such as Poltergeist and The Shining. It’s wonderfully directed by James Wan who uses the classic old-school type of film-making with the use of shadows, faint white faces in the dark, and eerie sounds to build the tension and suspense and create a truly haunting feel. The scene with the two daughters being terrorized in their bedroom is one of the most disturbing and effective scenes in the film and is sure to have the audience jumping in their seats.
Vera Farmiga delivers her best performance to date as Lorraine Warren, the psychic who can communicate and see the spirits infesting the house. She conveys perfectly her character’s concern for the family and the horror of fighting the malevolent force in the house. Patrick Wilson is solid as Ed the Demonologist who has assisted in exorcisms performed by the Catholic church and is concerned that taking on the Perron case might expose Lorraine to too much danger even for them.
The young actors playing the Perron daughters give effective performances, especially Joey King and Hayley McFarland who seem to get the worst scares out of all the children in the house.
The production design is flawless, bringing back to life the year 1971 with the cars, hairstyles, clothes, furniture and especially the equipment the Warrens use for their ghost investigations. The audience is sure to feel teleported back in time. The ominous musical score in the film composed by Joseph Bishara sets the mood and creates an uneasy tension all its own in every scene it’s used in – including the opening credits.
The only weak part in the film is near the end when the Warrens are trying to perform an exorcism to drive out the evil spirit. The scenes become too chaotic and there’s a chase through the house that causes the fear factor to drop considerably.
Sure to have the hairs standing up on backs on the necks and goose bumps running up and down the arms of audiences, The Conjuring is a chilling, nerve-racking, terrifying film that deserves a place amongst the best ghost movies ever made. Heed this film critic’s advice and make sure you see it up on the big screen but DON’T SEE IT ALONE! You have been warned.
The Conjuring is rated R for sequences of disturbing violence and terror.
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