Review: The Conjuring

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The Conjuring

The formula for making a horror movie might be considered fairly simple. You combine one or more ingredients into ye olde film cauldron, mix in some practical effects, scary atmosphere and wolfsbane, and out comes the next blockbuster horror movie. You know the ingredients: creepy dolls, old houses, doors that could stand a good dose of WD-40, dusty basements, creaky floor boards, demons, ghosts, ghost hunters, psychics, priests, young newlyweds, kids and anything else that might go bump in the night. More often than not the concoction crafted by the grandest of film wizards turns out to be nothing more than snake oil, but once in a while the wizard is successful in causing the dead to rise or turns lead into gold. This time that wizard is James Wan of Saw fame, and the splendid potion of a film is The Conjuring

The Conjuring tells the story of the Perron family, who move into an old musty farmhouse and soon realize that the "seller's disclosure" for their home failed to mention the "presence" already occupying it. The story slowly unfolds as the children discover that this charming country home is anything but. The kids hear mysterious voices, see things in the shadows, and experience the piece de resistance of scary things: something under the bed. 

Soon after realizing that something is amiss, the Perrons contact famed supernatural researchers Ed and Lorraine Warren (based on the real-life couple of the same name). The Warrens co-founded the New England Society for Psychic Research and are also famous for being involved in the haunting that inspired The Amityville Horror. Though reluctant at first, the Warrens decide to take on the Perrons' case and soon find themselves deeply involved in a real world haunting. This is The Conjuring, and it is oh so fun! 

Wan succeeds at what is often most difficult in the horror genre: actually scaring the viewer. What is the scary part? The scary part is the reality that this might have actually happened. Can demons possess objects, homes, people? Who knows for sure, but this potential reality is what made me sleep with the covers pulled up over my head after viewing The Exorcist on my black-and-white TV as a child, and The Conjuring will have you checking under the bed, too. With a script by Chad and Carey Hayes, The Conjuring tells an interesting story full of historical context, self-aware characters and details that make the film feel plausible.

Brilliant screenwriting and direction are not the only ingredients necessary to craft an awesome film. You need another critical element: a strong cast. This film has a highly skilled cast -- the Warrens are played by Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson, and the Perrons are played by Lili Taylor and Ron Livingston. Farmiga's performance as Lorraine Warren delivers a character who is caring and empathetic yet who possesses enough internal fortitude to take on the forces of evil. Taylor's performance is also noteworthy, as she crafts a strong mother figure and provides some of the most memorable scenes in the film. The efforts of these two leading ladies directly contribute to the movie's hardcore scare factor. 

Summer may be a time better known for sno-cones, rollercoasters and big-ass tentpole movies rather than great horror films, but this offers an exception. This July, take a break, grab an Icee, and prepare to get totally creeped out by The Conjuring.