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Movie Review: The Conjuring
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The Conjuring Movie PosterThe Conjuring
Director: James Wan
Screenwriter(s): Chad & Carey Hayes
Cast: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Lili Taylor, Ron Livingston, Mackenzie Foy, Joey King, Hayley McFarland, Shanley Caswell, Kyla Deaver, Shannon Kook
Warner Brothers | New Line Cinema
Rated PG-13 | 112 Minutes
Release Date: July 19, 2013

Before the Amityville Horror, there was the Haunting of Harrisville. Based on true events, The Conjuring is directed by James Wan (Saw, Insidious) and stars Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as Ed and Lorraine Warren, world-renowned paranormal investigators called up to help a family overcome a dark, demonic entity.

The Conjuring takes place in 1971 and follows Roger and Carolyn Perron (Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor), a married couple who moves into an old farmhouse in Harrisville, Rhode Island with their five daughters only to discover their dream home is haunted by malevolent spirits. Enter World War II veteran and noted demonologist Ed Warren and his clairvoyant wife Lorraine, a bad-ass duo of demon hunters who specialize is seeking out the supernatural.

Ed and Lorraine complement one another wonderfully; her sensitivity and empathy, his street smarts and matter-of-fact detective work. There’s an undeniable chemistry between Wilson and Farmiga that makes investing in the Warrens and their supernatural struggles effortless. Their lives are centered around being dangerously close to the dark side because they genuinely want to help people, and they’re willing to confront the unseen evils of the world with cameras and tape recorders when others flee in fear.

The Conjuring: lily Taylor

Wan directs The Conjuring with complete confidence, tightening the screws on the scares he created in Insidious and ratcheting up the family drama with great performances by Wilson, Farmiga, Taylor, Livingston, and the five young actresses who play the Perron’s daughters: Mackenzie Foy, Joey King, Hayley McFarland, Shanley Caswell, and Kyla Deaver.

The Conjuring eschews blood and gore in favor of old-fashioned, atmospheric chills. Wan and cinematographer John R. Leonetti throw everything at the screen: evil spirits, demonic possession, witchcraft, cursed dolls, hide-and-clap games, antique music boxes, creepy kids – there’s even an homage to Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, with hundreds of deranged black birds crashing into the Perron family farmhouse.

Perhaps the greatest thing about Wan’s house of horrors is that it’s played completely straight. Like The Exorcist, The Conjuring finds itself concerned with the mystery of faith as screenwriters Chad Hayes and Carey W. Hayes explore the contrast between the Warrens, devout Catholics and respected demonologists, and the Perrons, who aren’t religious at all. When Lorraine says that her psychic abilities are a gift from God – that her and Ed were put on Earth to confront darkness and demons – you believe her.

The Conjuring: Vera Farmiga as Lorraine Warren

I really can’t speak enough about how fantastic Vera Farmiga is in this film, and how refreshing it is to see a horror movie with strong female characters who aren’t hysterical, ditzy bimbos running away from sex-crazed maniacs with phallic weapons. Farmiga channels Lorraine’s style and mannerisms exquisitely – and her relationship with Patrick Wilson is so believable that the Warrens appear as fully-formed characters on screen.

The Warren Files was a working title for The Conjuring, and it’s easy to see how this film could turn into a successful horror franchise with Wilson and Farmiga investigating various paranormal disturbances from Ed and Lorraine’s 60+ years of hunting ghosts. With thousands of bizarre case files to choose from, we could soon see a series of horror films that focuses on a heroic husband-wife duo instead of a masked boogeyman.

2013 has been a pretty great year for horror: Evil Dead, You’re Next, V/H/S/2, Maniac, and now The Conjuring, a well-crafted spookshow inspired by classic films like The Haunting and The Legend of Hell House with a touch of Tobe Hooper’s Poltergeist. Filled with scream-inducing scares and excellent performances, Wan’s carnival dark ride will leave you sleeping with the lights on, shrieking at the sound of clapping hands.

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