Movie Review

Nicole Fasola

While it would have been better suited for a Halloween release as opposed to its summer debut, James Wan’s “The Conjuring” successfully achieves the traditionally terrifying “haunted house” narrative without over-playing the gore or special effects. Though moviegoers seeking the year’s scariest film may be disappointed, there are enough thrills and an interesting enough plot to make the film a hit for most viewers.

Set in the 1970’s and based on the true story of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, respectively), the plot follows the couple’s demonic and ghostly cases, focusing specifically on the Perron family haunting. Carol and Roger Perron, along with their five daughters, have just moved into a large and predictably ominous farmhouse in rural Rhode Island when they begin experiencing strange occurrences. As the situation escalates, Carol reaches out to Ed and Lorraine for “paranormal assistance.” While Ed and Lorraine have their own inner demons to face, they find themselves becoming too involved in the Perron’s case to back out. As a result, they face the formidable task of destroying the demon haunting the Perron family before it destroys them all.

Let me preface this review by stating that I hardly consider myself a horror film buff. I steer clear of blood and gore and laugh through the now-dated effects in old classics such as “The Exorcist.” That being said, when a good haunting or ghost film comes along, I find it hard to resist. In addition to “The Conjuring,” James Wan is responsible for the sinister “Insidious” (2011) and the creative and twisted original “Saw” film (before the series became “over-gorified” and unbearable to watch).

Like “Insidious,” “The Conjuring” relies heavily on the audience’s apprehension and trepidation about an unknown entity wreaking havoc in a family’s home. Doors slamming shut, mysterious bruises and strange sounds with no apparent source are just the beginning of the Perron family’s troubles.

Furthermore, Wan uses specific recurring sounds or themes to cue the beginning of torment, such as a clock stopping, the haunting music of a wind-up toy or, creepiest of all, the sound of an unknown entity clapping during a game of “Hide and Clap.” These cues effectively add to the suspense and anxiety that something chilling is most likely about to happen (or in some cases, indicates the perfect time to close your eyes).

My one complaint about “The Conjuring” is that it struggles with identifying who or what the focus of the plot is, sloppily switching between the Warren and Perron families, leaving much unexplained and causing the viewer to not care about either. On a positive note however, the film is able to effectively incorporate comedic relief at times when the tension gets too high. It does this with charming supporting characters such as the Warren’s teenaged assistant and the clueless police officer. The juxtaposition of horror and lightness creates an all around enjoyable movie for horror fans as well those interested in enjoying an all-inclusive thrill ride.   

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