The Conjuring, 2013.
Directed by James Wan.
Starring Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Ron Livingston, and Lili Taylor.
Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren are called in to help a family in Rhode Island who finds that their new dream home is trapped under the curse of an evil force hell-bent on forcing the new residents from the house.
One of the big film events celebrated in 2018 was the 10th anniversary of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the most successful attempt to create an interconnect film franchise that has made that the comic book juggernaut the envy of its rivals.
Outside of comic book blockbusters, 2018 also marks the 5th anniversary of what is arguably the first successful non-Marvel shared universe (sorry DC fans) as well as the first truly successful horror cinematic universe since the heyday of the Universal Monsters in the 1940s. That is the franchise started by the intense supernatural chiller The Conjuring.
Based on the real life exploits of self-professed supernatural experts Ed and Lorraine Warren, The Conjuring frames its plot under a “based on a true story” moniker. Regardless of whether or not the Warren’s did indeed tangle with the supernatural (I myself don’t believe in the supernatural nor the Warrens’ claims) it still makes for what is a terrific and terrifying old school haunted house horror story.
Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga cement themselves as horror royalty with their stellar turns as Ed and Lorraine Warren respectively, with the pair giving performances that is respectful to their real-life inspirations with the actors’ natural charisma and likeability also making for a pair of charming and engaging heroes.
I also like how the film portrays the Warrens as level-headed people, always looking to find the rational explanation for creepy events, rather than just leaping to the conclusion that “ghosts done it”. It’s a little touch that makes the characters just that little bit more human and relatable.
The supporting cast is also excellent, particularly Lili Taylor as Carolyn Peron, the loving mother who finds herself with a demonic bullseye on her back. Taylor is great at managing to create a loving screen presence that projects an air of motherly warmth for the first half of the film; you come to really care for her and you want to see her and her family safe. It’s in the second half that Taylor shines as the demonic entity takes hold, transforming this loving mother into a monstrous creature of pure evil, with the actress excelling at capturing the vicious internal battle raging within Carolyn for her soul.
The pacing of the film is top notch with it moving along at a brisk speed that gives equal focus to the supernatural terrors throwing furniture around like a tornado in Ikea, while also allowing the viewers to take a breather and soak up the family drama of the Warren’s as they contemplate how to proceed with their newest case. It’s these quiet moments really allow for the characters to shine and develop, with the actor’s performances being a pleasant joy to watch.
If the film has any shortcomings (and there’s not many) it’s in the scare department, with it often drawing on the familiar bag of jump scares and fake-outs that we all know and somewhat love. However, my complaints are minor nitpicks and the film at least tries to be somewhat creative with these familiar moments.
It’s always just a tad creepy when you that young boy reflected in the music box mirror, with the lack of a crashing musical sting allowing the viewer to soak up the creepiness of the moment. Plus, it is intense when the ghosts really lose their shit and start throwing and smashing up furniture, which makes you think that the house is being haunted by the ghost of Keith Moon. Also, there is the demonic doll Annabelle who gives us a very unsettling opening, with the scene serving as a nice creepy teaser for things to come. But we’ll talk more about Annabelle another day.
With excellent performances all round, especially from Wilson and Farmiga, and a tight well-paced story that scares as well as intrigues, The Conjuring is probably one of the finest supernatural horror films of the modern era and a cracking start to what has grown into a promising horror cinematic universe.
Scare Rating: ? ? ? ?
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★