I had the pleasure of finally seeing James Wan’s The Conjuring this past weekend. It was a film that struck me from it’s previews as being worth a watch, and the buzz after it’s release had me greatly intrigued, but I was still on the fences as to if it’d be as good as I had heard. By the time came for the closing credits the film had greatly assured me that yes, it was worthy of the hype.
The film follows two sets of families: the Warrens and the Perrons. Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) are paranormal investigators that collect haunted artifacts in their home in order to protect society. Their recent adoption of a haunted doll doesn’t bode well for the family, especially after it seems to set it’s eyes on their daughter. Meanwhile, Roger Perron (Ron Livingston) and his wife Carolyn (Lilli Taylor) move their five daughters and a dog into a new home in Rhode Island.
It doesn’t take the Perrons very long to realize something is amiss. Their youngest daughter, April, is visited by a ghostly visitor who promises to kill her and her whole family. Lilly finds herself waking up with strange bruises on her body. When things become completely unbearable for them, Lorraine reaches out the Warren family for help. And that’s when the spirit haunting the Perrons really let’s loose with it’s reign of terror.
The film, which is based on true events, is shot by Wan in a 70’s style that seems authentic. It’s a slow-burn movie, modeled after juggernauts of that error such as The Exorcist and The Amityville Horror. The nu-metal style of quick cut editing shown in Wan’s earlier works (primarily Saw and Death Sentence) are completely absent. Despite an R rating It is also relatively blood free throughout. It’s a bold move to release a movie in that style in this day and age given the typical studio viewpoint that the audience is stupid, horror fans especially, and thus there must be an onslaught of violence and quick cuts to gauge our interest. The Conjuring is classic cinematic storytelling at it’s best, and I hope as a result that studios put more stock in younger directors to take bold chances as Wan has done here.
The actors give as good as their director, especially little Kyla Deaver, who plays as the Perron’s youngest daughter April. There is a scene where she is woken up in the middle of the night and is absolutely terrified by something unseen to the audience and she sells the complete fear of it without making it seem contrived or silly. As a matter of fact, all of the young women playing as the daughters are very talented, and I see long fruitful careers in their future.
The real Lorraine Warren and Andrea Perron met with Wan to help establish historical details in the film. Andrea has said that the film is a work of art, and not a work of fiction. Some of the movie’s events were taking from Andrea’s account of the incident House of Darkness, House of Light, which I now wish to read (author’s edit; after reading Amazon reviews of the book, I recant the last statement). Part of the charm of the movie is the feeling left in the viewer knowing that quite a bit of the film actually took place, and that there is a good deal of research material which they can delve into. It’s classic good vs. evil stuff here, and the film has the balls to go the non-politically correct route by having both forces represented by their real life counter-parts God and the Devil, even going so far as to say the only way to defeat evil is to throw yourself at God’s mercy. It’s a refreshing bit of truth that we haven’t seen from a horror film in a long, long time.
The only real complaints to be had is that the B storyline about the haunted doll Annabelle could have easily been left on the cutting room floor (except for the opening of the film) as it adds absolutely nothing to the film. The second complaint is that this is arguably Wan’s best film and now he is leaving the horror genre to direct the next Fast and Furious movie. Disappointing news indeed, but I am holding out hope that he may give us a 1970’s-esque action film at some point.
After all, we haven’t had a Death Wish remake yet…..
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