The Conjuring has received a lot of advance buzz leading up to its premiere this past Friday. Insiders and critics who have seen it in advance have been saying it is great and fully delivers on the chills while an R-rating has been rumored to be given to the film just for how damn right scary it is. While The Conjuring is far from the scariest movie ever, there is a lot to admire about it. It’s a well-constructed film that relies on its love for its subject matter rather than cheap jump scares (there are a couple but they are kept to a minimum). However, what really makes The Conjuring a step above its horror brethren is that it’s a master class in how to set up a film franchise. It concludes its stories and arcs while also leaving enough open to intrigue audiences further.
The Conjuring follows Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga respectively), the real life paranormal investigators, as they are asked by a worried family to investigate their house for a possible demonic possession. Although Ed is becoming weary of the toll the investigations are taking on Lorraine, they agree to do the investigation at which point they are caught up in one of the most perilous investigations of their life. The film is directed by James Wan (Saw and Insidious) and is written by Chad Hayes and Carey Hayes (who have worked on nothing bigger than the House of Wax remake).
Considering he was working on three different films at once (this film, Insidious: Chapter 2 and Fast & Furious 7) you would think James Wan wouldn’t be able to put all of his effort into this film. Yet the greatest part about this film might be its direction. This easily the classiest horror film in a long time. Wan brings a style to the film that is charming as it embraces its old school roots. It was refreshing to see makeup and practical effects are at the forefront of this film. More importantly though is that when he went for more current horror film tropes he used them effectively (the tracking shots were done effectively when they are often done so haphazardly in present day films of the genre), and even when they weren’t (the one or two jump scares) they were immediately followed by a genuinely horrific moment.
Oddly, the writing for the film is almost as good. While there may be too many characters in the film to handle, Chad and Carey Hayes really hone in on the Warrens and build a mythology for them that feels organic while also providing a wealth of material that could last multiple films. While the arcs of all of these characters are finished there are enough tidbits left around that will still have audiences intrigued.
The acting for the adult characters is really strong all around. Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson work up a great chemistry with each other and never look silly in moments that it would have been easy to do so. Ron Livingston (and especially) Lili Taylor are also quite good as the inhabitants of a haunted house. The only weak spot are the actresses playing the daughters of Livingston and Taylor’s characters, and that has a lot more to do with the writing for those characters than the acting.
The Conjuring is one of the best horror films in a long time and will have you anticipating another go-around with these characters.