Patrick Wilson as Ed Warren and Vera Farmiga as Lorraine Warren in New Line Cinema’s supernatural thrilling ‘The Conjuring,’ a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo by Michael Tackett, Warner Bros.
"The Conjuring" is a well-crafted throwback to B-movie horror thrillers, with A-list actors, making the sum of the parts a solid B+.
One of the scarier haunted house/demon possession movies in recent years, it brings to mind '70s supernatural horror films such as "The Exorcist" with its stillness, steady build of suspense and handsome cinematography.
Director James Wan successfully imbues the film with a sense of foreboding. Along the way the sound effects, unsettling music and eerie mood keep viewers on edge.
While "The Conjuring" is said to be based on a true story, familiar supernatural thriller tropes abound. But the way Wan keeps the audience in a constant state of dread makes it effective.
A couple of ghost busters anchor the spooky saga. Married couple Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) lecture to rapt audiences about their experiences. Paranormal investigator Ed specializes in demonology and is the only non-priest to assist at exorcisms. Lorraine is clairvoyant. Sometimes the diabolical events she sees are simply too much - she'll take to her bed for days at a time after a demon purging.
Meanwhile, in rural Harrisville, R.I., Roger and Carolyn Perron (Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor) have put nearly all of their money into a secluded centuries-old farmhouse. To most viewers it would spell haunted mansion, but to the Perrons it's a healthy, spacious place to raise their five daughters.
Soon after moving in, the family experiences decidedly un-healthy goings-on. Things literally go bump in the night. Doors blow open or slam shut. Patches of rooms are icy cold. Pictures fling themselves off walls. The family dog barks worriedly and won't enter the house. The style and degree of torment escalates.
Every nook is shot intriguingly. Long continuous takes, slow-moving zooms and odd camera angels intensify the fear factor. The camera alternately jostles during an unnerving confrontation or glides as if it were itself a spirit.
When the Warrens come to the Perrons to oust the evil spirits, they tote equipment only a bit more sophisticated than the claptrap in Ghostbusters. But the eerie mood counts for more than ghost-tracking instruments.
One of the film's few flaws is that it doesn't fully develop the Perrons' back story. However, both Livingston and Taylor convey a believable parental presence, and Farmiga is topnotch, appearing both calmly in charge and mildly haunted.
Monstrous figures are shown sparingly, rendering them that much scarier.
The net result is an entertainingly frightening film that keeps the audience in a state of alarmed, but eager, anticipation.
Claudia Puig, USA TODAY
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