Director James Wan is primarily known for his SAW movies, and he’s proven that he has the gore/torture horror genre on lock-down. Now he brings us The Conjuring and shows us that he knows how to make a scary movie – minus all the blood.
For those who don’t think ‘haunted house’ films can be scary, think about this: The Conjuring was scheduled to release during the less competitive winter/spring quarter. After audience testing, they realized that even without blood and insane special effects, The Conjuring could hold its own amid the summer movie monstrosities.
Before there was Amityville, there was Harrisville. “The Conjuring” tells the true story of Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga), world renowned paranormal investigators, who were called to help a family terrorized by a dark presence in a secluded farmhouse. Forced to confront a powerful demonic entity, the Warrens find themselves caught in the most horrifying case of their lives. — (C) WB
The Conjuring takes cues from scary movie classics like The Exorcist, Poltergeist, and The Amityville Horror. To prevent spoilers, I won’t elaborate much more on the story. While the film itself is quite terrifying, the realization that it is based on a true story is the scariest part of all.
Most horror movies have a checklist that they follow, and this includes killing off all the characters one by one. This script has more depth. Screenwriter brothers Chad and Carey Hayes create people to sympathize with, which makes the evil being done to them feel more real. Of course, the cast selection has a lot to do with making the screenplay work. Farmiga and Wilson are fantastic as the Warrens, and they approach the characters with as much subtlety as you can when playing a couple with a weird occupation. The family in spiritual jeopardy is the Perrons: Caroline (Lili Taylor) and Rodger (Ron Livingston), and their daughters Andrea (Shanley Caswell), Nancy (Hayley McFarland), Christine (Joey King), Cindy (Mackenzie Foy), and April (Kyla Deaver). The daughters deal with the paranormal more than the parents during the film, and the young actresses do an amazing job of being scared out of their wits. Their reactions are impressively realistic for being so young. Livingston does a fine job as well, though he plays a smaller role. The real stand-out performance goes to Lili Taylor. She is the most relatable character and the most convincing of everyone, which is saying a lot.
While the human element is important, The Conjuring‘s true strength lies in the way Wan plays out all the scary moments. There is a particularily terrifying scene that includes the family’s favorite game, Hide and Clap (a version of Hide & Go Seek). Wan builds the momentum of terror into a controlled frenzy and knows precisely when to let the audience fall into a false sense of security before making everyone jump and scream with fright.
The Conjuring proves that with the right cast, director, and screenwriters, horror movies can scare the tar out of you without resorting to the now trite gags of gore and violent death scenes. If you’re in the mood for a movie that will make you leave the lights on at night, The Conjuring can’t be missed – just don’t go alone!