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article imageReview: ‘The Conjuring’ invokes uncommon anxiety at the movies Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Jul 18, 2013 in Entertainment
In ‘The Conjuring’, a family seeks the assistance of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren when their newly purchased farmhouse appears haunted by an evil entity.
Making a good horror movie does not happen by accident. It takes a particular talent to grab hold of an audience and not let go for the length of a film. It's not just about hiding monsters in the dark. There are many elements that combine to make a frightening film and in The Conjuring director James Wan demonstrates he knows how to use each of them to his advantage.
In 1971, Roger and Caroline Perron (Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor) invested in a large farmhouse in which to raise their five daughters. But a malevolent being that's existed in the house long before they moved in has other plans for the Perrons. As the unnatural occurrences increase in intensity and frequency, the family turns to paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) for help. The evil that possesses the home is stronger than anything the couple has previously encountered – and they may already be too late to save them.
Based on true events, the Warrens are considered America's preeminent experts on the subject of spirits and demonology. For the past 50 years, they’ve been called to investigate and control some of the worst cases of diabolical phenomenon in the country. Some may be familiar with them because of their involvement with “The Amityville Horror.” Wan is keenly aware that inanimate objects can be instinctively creepy, so starting the film with the real-life haunting of Annabelle, a large, demonic doll, expertly sets the tone for the remainder of the movie. This and the family dog's reaction to her new home are groundwork for almost two hours of goose bumps, increased heartbeats and hairs standing on the back of your neck.
This film doesn't rely on the jump scare to keep viewers on the edge of their seats. It establishes an atmosphere of expectation and suspense early on and sustains it for the entire movie. A door opening or unexplained creak isn't always sinister, but the audience never knows which is innocent or threatening. Additionally, the spirits only gradually reveal themselves, preserving the fear of the unknown as long as possible. Everything about the narrative and the way the film is shot, often drawing focus to the background rather than the foreground, combines to produce a genuinely unsettling experience.
It's surprising to see Wilson in another of Wan's films so close in nature and to the release of Insidious 2, but he plays the character well. Ed is honest and caring with strong convictions – religious and otherwise. Farmiga doesn't overplay Lorraine's psychic abilities. She appears more vulnerable and emotional than Ed, but just as determined. Taylor is convincing as the mother desperate to make everything work. It's easy to believe she would do anything to ensure the safety of her children.
Due to its connection to the Amityville incident, there are sure to be comparisons. But this film surpasses the best of the movie franchise in its ability to unnerve audiences in a uniquely skillful and spine-chilling approach to the haunted house narrative.
Director: James Wan
Starring: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson and Lili Taylor
Originally appeared on mrwillwong.com.
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