Rugger Review: The Conjuring
Summary: Based on the experiences of real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren as they help a family being terrorised by a dark presence in their new home.
James Wan arrived on the horror scene in 2004 with Saw which, upon its debut was not only a commercial success owing to its small budget, but a winner with critics as well.
Unfortunately, the endless sequels (six films followed year after year like clockwork) undermined Wan’s original work.
However, Wan had already detached himself from the sequels and moved on to other projects including puppet-horror Dead Silence and the under-rated revenge flick Death Sentence.
In 2010, he set himself up as the new king or Horror with Insidious, a haunted house story that relied more on the audiences imagination than the cheap scares that, for example, the Paranormal Activity franchise goes for.
It’s no surprise then after the success of that film, that he has followed it up with another haunted house film, though this time of a completely different nature.
The Conjuring is another “based on a true story” horror that doesn’t actually divulge how much is really “true”. That part is left up to you.
The story is well-known to the point of being stale. A family moves into an old house and after an eerie first few nights, start to believe that it may be haunted. They call in Ed and Lorraine Warren, who specialise in the supernatural.
What makes The Conjuring stand out from other haunted house films is the time it takes to set up not only the premise, but the lives of The Warren’s, the investigators who are inevitably called upon for their expertise in the paranormal.
Played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, the Warren’s are sincere in their profession, to a point where the lectures they give and the stories they tell will make you believe they are true.
The patient build up extends to the scares as well. Rather than go for a quick shock, Wan prefers to slowly move the camera throughout the house, taking in every blowing curtain and creaking door, holding just long enough for you to expect something to happen.
As a director, Wan is confident enough to take things slow, preferring to fill the audience with an impending sense of dread before delivering the jolt the audience needs to bring their heart rate back down.
Unfortunately, he can’t keep it up, and the final third descends into possession/exorcism territory which doesn’t bring anything new or exciting to the table.
The cast excel in their parts, especially Lilly Tomlin as the mother of haunted family, while Patrick Wilson is at his understated best here.
The haunting feeling throughout will excite scare-lovers but the scares here service the story, not the audience. Don’t be expecting to jump out of your seat, but rather to squirm in it.
Final Verdict: It doesn’t break any new ground and it’s hard to imagine just how much of this particular story is true, but the cast elevate it beyond just another would-be haunted house flick, while Wan is undoubtedly still a master at toying with nerves.
Star Rating: 3/5
* Review by Stephen Connolly