I don’t even remember what movie I had gone to see when I first encountered the trailer for The Conjuring. All I know is that the moment I saw Lili Taylor’s face, I knew I’d be back to see this movie. Taylor has a natural, soft-spoken creep-factor about her that you can’t deny. She also happens to be a good actor and that’s why I figured this movie would be a safe bet. In other words, Taylor’s face was all the information I needed in order to make a mental note to watch The Conjuring.
Opening night I headed out and into my local movie theater in search of that scare that I’d promised myself. Surprisingly, I later walked out of that same theater satisfied and somewhat excited. While The Conjuring sadly isn’t the next legendary horror movie, it most definitely is an exercise in calculated and drawn out dread. It was delightful. I enjoy a nice, slow, classic build of tension and there was plenty of that in this film.
We meet the Perrons on their move from New Jersey to Harrisville, Rhode Island. From the beginning, it’s apparent that this move wasn’t something the family had anticipated. Roger Perron (Ron Livingston) is stressed out, but hopeful. Carolyn Perron (Lili Taylor), Roger’s wife, is upbeat and understanding. Together they quell one another’s anxiety through the increasingly difficult situations they encounter. They’re a sweet couple under the stress of a tight budget, parenting five daughters and Roger’s job, which keeps him away often. They’re all doing their best to stay positive during a time when they’ve been forced to move into a run-down farmhouse far from everything they know.
Fortunately for everyone, the Perrons are an optimistic and lively bunch. They play games, they laugh and they sit down for dinner together. They actually appear to be adjusting to the move quite well. Unfortunately for them, the house they’ve just moved into is haunted. From the moment they arrive something isn’t quite right. The thought of the supernatural doesn’t occur to anyone until things get so out of hand that they have no other explanation.
What I found most interesting about this film is that the movie isn’t so much about the Perrons, but the supernatural investigators that Carolyn eventually hunts down as she tries desperately to save her family from the dark entity that inhabits her cellar.
The Conjuring is more so the story of Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson & Vera Farminga). Ed and Lorraine were the first real ghost hunters. They were pioneers in the field of paranormal research. They’ve seen it all and the Perrons had a haunting so bad, that it was memorable to the folks that are best known for their work on cases like the Amityville haunting. The Conjuring tells the tale of what happened to the Perrons and how the Warrens saved them from the unthinkable.
As a fan of all things ghostly, ghastly and paranormal, I am well acquainted with the Warrens. I’ve been fascinated by their work since I was a kid. I had no idea they were involved in this movie though, until they were identified in the film. It was exciting to learn that The Conjuring was more than just a haunted house flick. It is based on a true story. Lorraine’s cameo in the film was a nice touch that reminded me that stuff like this happened to an actual family, not too long ago.
Patrick Wilson plays Ed Warren and I gotta tell ya’, he’s really growing on me. I never thought he was a bad actor, but I never found him overly appealing. That is beginning to change. He’s starting to convince me of his acting ability. Wilson brings us an Ed Warren that is kind, concerned and determined to help the Perrons (as well as his own family) to rid themselves of the darkness that is slowly penetrating their daily lives.
Vera Farminga is Lorraine Warren and she does a fine job. She got the look down and she really embodied what I imagine a young Lorraine to have been like. Farminga brought a soulful tone to Lorraine that intrigued me. She made her come across wise, brave, strong and determined. I enjoyed Farminga’s portrayal of Lorraine Warren perhaps because there wasn’t an ounce of corniness in the entire thing.
The tone the movie sets in the intro was questionable. I’m not sure if James Wan (Director) was trying to imply hokey, so as to later hit us with the devastating punch that is the great story line, or if the hokeiness was unintentional. Either way, it concerned me. The first few minutes of the movie serve to frame up Ed and Lorraine Warren, to give the part they play in this story some context. The acting by the initial characters on screen isn’t top notch and some of the props (that I won’t describe so as to not ruin the surprise) made my eyes roll pretty hard and fast up into the back of my head. Also, while I understand that the Perrons are supposed to be living in a run-down house, the set reminded me entirely too much of what haunted houses look like in every video game, ever. I would have liked to see a bit more originality there. Aside from that, the rest of the sets and the costumes really transported me to the early 70s without all the clichés that we usually equate to that era. The successful expression of a time past really lent to the authenticity of the story.
Finally, a review of this movie wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t comment on the scare factor. As previously mentioned, there was a lot of soft, slow tension build. It was glorious. I startle easily so this entire movie was a roller coaster of scares and serenity. There isn’t a lot of bloodshed or gore and that’s just fine with me. I get a lot of that in my other movie selections. There were plenty of jump scares though, but more importantly the story was well developed and great care was taken to properly portray Ed and Lorraine Warren. Their lives are pretty interesting and I was excited to get a glimpse of that in this movie.
I’m going to be honest with you; I thought The Conjuring was going to suck. I was pretty convinced I’d be let down. Don’t get me wrong, I had hope, but I was being realistic. The majority of the horror movies I watch end up being duds. With The Conjuring, I was hoping Lili Taylor would make it work and I was crossing my fingers that Patrick Wilson wouldn’t mess it up (not really sure why). Well, I’m glad I made my way to the theater because this was one of the good ones. While it didn’t scare me sleepless, it certainly frayed my nerves and startled me into submission.
The Conjuring (2013) – B
B = Watch it in a theater, stream it on T.V. or add it to your Netflix queue; chances are, you won’t curse me when the credits roll, for recommending.