The Conjuring (4 out of 5 Stars)
Directed by James Wan (Saw, Insidious)
Written by Chad Hayes, Corey Hayes (The Reaping, House of Wax)
Starring: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Ron Livingston, and Lili Taylor
I rarely like or see horror films, I think this is one of the hardest genres, if not the hardest "to get it right." There are few horror or suspense films, which are both scary, and good films, have character development, or any of a variety of elements which make a film good. The last "scary" movie I saw in the movie theatres was The Woman in Black. The film fit too much of a formula, and the scary moments felt predictable or planned. While The Conjuring does not break new ground within the world of possession or exorcism, the film is both scary, and measures up within every other aspect.
The Conjuring follows two families, the first is a family who moves into a new house after some hard times financially, and the second is a family with two "demonologists." The film opens with Ed (Wilson) and Lorraine (Farmiga) Warren the two demonologists who laughingly describe their titles in a variety of manners, and are meeting with two young girls and their friend after they encounter a demonic possession in a doll they found. Let me tell you, Chucky is a Barbie compared to merely the look of this doll. This encounter along with one with a their explanation of what an exorcism or possession look like set the scene for the role this plays within this specific case within this film.
The second family is the Perron family, led by father Roger (Livingston), mother Carolynn (Taylor) who have five daughters. As the family has moved into their new home they start to notice little things that appear odd or out of the ordinary. Without giving much away these families paths soon meet, and there is an intense exploration of demonic possession, and what that means, in general and for this family.
Again without giving the plot away, this film succeeds at connecting you with the characters, their lives, and making you feel true terror for everyone involved. The actors are great, make a note horror directors/writers/producers getting better actors can help elevate the material (not a guarantee). Farmiga, Wilson, and Taylor are major stand outs, each of them adding to their character, and the plot of the film. Farmiga and Wilson not only make you believe in their characters, the script uses them wisely, never over doing the fact that this paranormal activities expert (Ed), and his clairvoyant wife could be crazy ghost busters.
Wan who directed Insidious, and Saw steps further into the "haunted house" genre, but never gets weighed down by the script or the material. The film is set within the 1970s and Wan balances the quick cut horror edits with a well paced story development to add to the thrill. The script, and direction adeptly blend the stories of these two families, and the times of the early 70s well. There was a paranoia surrounding this era, and the combination of these families mixes well to create one of the scariest stories to date.
As stated above creating a truly scary well made film is tough, and most of the time its about being "the first" Halloween, Carrie, The Exorcist, Rosemary's Baby all of these were popular films which scare, and haunt dreams. Most of them were not the first of their kind, but they became the benchmarks. The Conjuring may set a benchmark, but it lives up to the creepy well told story within all of these films. Mr. Wan allows the shock, and thrill to exist creating the perfect aura for this film. To put it bluntly, this is one scary movie.