Directed by James Wan
Starring Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Ron Livingston
When Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga) agree to help a distraught family claiming their house to be infested with malevolent spirits, they are unaware that the case they are about to undertake will be the most challenging and distressing of their eventful, tumultuous careers as paranormal researchers. Similarly, when I as an audience member originally intending to see low-brow comedy This is the End changed my mind at the last minute and bought a ticket for The Conjuring, I had no idea just how much my heart was going to be very unimpressed; as it was made to work overtime for nearly the entire 112 minutes…
Having helmed the decade-defining Saw (2003), creepy and atmospheric Dead Silence (2007) and the often terrifying thrill-ride Insidious (2010), director James Wan has established himself as Australia’s premier Master of Horror, and in The Conjuring he has made his masterpiece. Wilson and Farmiga are perfectly cast as the exorcizing couple ‘brought together by God’ and they embody their roles with absolute precision, as do Ron Livingston and Lily Taylor as Roger and Carolyn Perron, whose family of five likable daughters is being terrorised in an increasingly violent fashion. The film does start a little predictably, with a creepy doll used to generate some cheap scares, but this eventually works to its advantage as it proceeds above and beyond this level of horror and into the realm of the extreme – sharing company with the likes of The Exorcist (1973), The Legend of Hell House (1973) and The Amityville Horror (1979), and is in fact a better movie than the last two.
It is a relief witnessing a horror movie utilize the mood and characteristics of 70’s gothic without appearing phoney or forced, as much as it also is being properly scared at the cinema. I was concerned after giddily enjoying the preview for Machete Kills that this would be the highlight of my night; thankfully I was wrong, and The Conjuring may in fact remain one of my top cinema experiences of the year.
When the film begins you will be frightened, when it ends your nerves will be jangled and when you arrive back home and watch an episode of Seinfeld to relax you will feel relieved. But then when you’re in bed and the lights are out, and you stare into that pitch black corner of the bedroom, directly above the wardrobe and away from any doors, you will swear that you heard the sound of someone tapping three times… and that you can smell something rotting… and you will pray that it isn’t Bathsheba, because if it is you may not make it to the morning.
4.5 ghost maids out of 5.