Directed by James Wan

Reviewed by Deep Red

James Wan directed Saw (2004), Dead Silence (2007), Insidious (2010) and Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013) so I definitely find him an interesting director. I’ve heard he’s one of the writers of the upcoming Saw VIII as well as a film called Demonic (2014), looking forward to hearing more about those two. I’m also looking forward to The Conjuring 2: The Enfield Poltergeist (2015), the Conjuring spin-off Annabelle (2014) directed by John R. Leonetti and indeed Insidious: Chapter 3 (2015) directed by Leigh Whannell. Not sure who’s directing The Conjuring 2 yet.

I saw The Conjuring (USA/Canadian film) at the cinema a while back and I’ve just watched it again on Blu-ray.

Well, first we meet the Warrens, Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) and Ed (Patrick Wilson). They’re two famous paranormal investigators. Lorraine is a gifted clairvoyant and Ed is the only non-ordained Demonologist recognised by the Catholic church. We also meet Annabelle, this creepy-looking doll that’s possessed by a demon. There’s a small cameo by the real Lorraine Warren, see if you can spot it.

Carolyn Perron (Lili Taylor) and her family, husband Roger (Ron Livingston) and five daughters Andrea (Shanley Caswell), Nancy (Hayley McFarland), Christine (Joey King), Cindy (Mackenzie Foy) and April (Kyla Deaver) move into a farmhouse in Harrisville, Burrillville, Rhode Island in 1971. Their dog, Sadie (Dusty), refuses to go in, bad sign! The next morning the youngest daughter, April, finds Sadie dead, told you! Anyway, one of the daughters Christine sees someone in the room she shares with her sister Nancy, they both smell something bad too. Carolyn hears things and ends up locked in the cellar, has quite a bad experience. Cindy has a bad experience too in her sister Andrea’s room.

Carolyn contacts the Warrens for help. The Warrens visit the house and Lorraine experiences some phenomena there. Ed tells Carolyn and Roger that the house needs cleansing, an exorcism.

The Warrens and a couple of other paranormal investigators show up to do their stuff à la Poltergeist (1982) just with Vera Farmiga in place of Zelda Rubinstein.

I’ll leave it there.

It’s a well-made film, nice cinematography, nice audio/soundtrack, decent cast/acting. It’s a pretty traditional haunted house/demonic possession film and a quality one. There’s the usual emphasis on loud noises to scare you/loud noises accompanying scary moments and it works well although personally I find this tactic a bit overused these days, it is a bit of a cheap scare that doesn’t require too much imagination, sudden loud noises make people jump, OK we get that. There’s also the usual imaginary friend, this time it’s Rory. This film does a lot more than that though and thankfully doesn’t do an Insidious and descend into some kind of  weird surreal fantasy, I had a real problem with the Insidious films for that reason. The special effects were very cool, this is a story-heavy film but it has some memorable moments; I liked the sheet in the garden scene, if you remember.

I did find Lili Taylor as Carolyn Perron a bit bland, especially as she has so much to do, she fit well into the doting mother role but didn’t quite manage to make me care about her character. Although it’s well-acted, a lot of the cast is a little bland, I find this in many modern films but there’s plenty going on here so it’s not that noticeable. I did find myself wandering a little, both times I watched it, it just feels too safe maybe, even when it becomes a possession movie it’s never ballsy enough for me, it takes more than great special effects, and they are great, to get the idea of evil across. Maybe I’m being too hard on it, there have always been glossier, more toned down horror films, this is probably just a modern example of that audience-friendly style. I thought Sinister (2012) got a lot more right and managed to slip in some pretty dark shit to an otherwise similarly glossy film. This does have a decent amount of atmosphere but say The Amityville Horror (1979) and Amityville II: The Possession (1982) just managed to depict evil better using a lot less.

There were moments nonetheless where I thought, hell yeah! The face ripping through the bloody sheet in the chair, if you’ve seen it, the traditional demon eyes, that was great, maybe they just got lucky but at times I felt like there was a really scary film trying to get to the surface. Unfortunately that didn’t quite happen but The Conjuring is well worth seeing and a decent effort, now they’ve just got to darken shit up and remember horror fans can take a lot more, we’ve seen a lot more.

Also stars Shannon Kook as Drew, John Brotherton as Brad, Sterling Jerins as Judy Warren, Desi Domo as Suicide Maid, Joseph Bishara as Bathsheba and Steve Coulter as Father Gordon (nearly put Flash Gordon then).

“Diabolical forces are formidable. These forces are eternal, and they exist today. The fairy tale is true. The devil exists. God exists. And for us, as people, our very destiny hinges upon which one we elect to follow.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                – Ed Warren

“Look what she made me do.”