James Wan directs The Conjuring, based on supposed real events in a house following paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren on their first case as a family is haunted by a dark presence, the film stars Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Ron Livingston, Lili Taylor.
This is a film about a haunting but it feels like a haunting with a difference of sorts, not being a demonic possession film or a traditional haunted house type story, it’s practically somewhere in between and the story itself is pretty daunting and crazy but the film overall is produced really well. James Wan has a nice, refreshing take on his horror films and he subverts genre tropes, avoiding jump scares and the over-use of CGI for example in order to create more effective, impactful scares and boy do they make an impact, Wan makes good use of practical effects for certain scenes and it really pays off.
Scares are well built up with the use of traditional techniques and the lack of CG makes things look more real, a person getting dragged across a room or into a shaft by something unseen practically just looks pretty unsettling and things going bump in the night and the day with practical effects are doubly effective. Also present is a good cast, with veteran haunted horror actor Patrick Wilson who plays Ed Warren, he’s great in the film and really fits the bill, as does Vera Farmiga who plays his wife Lorraine and if you’re familiar with Vera in general and from Bates Motel then you already know she can portray emotion and hysteria really well and she does in the film when she has to.
The emotional moments in the story work because you get drawn in and engage with its characters, showing us the Perron familys dynamic and how normal they are helps to make you care about them, knowing what they might be getting themselves in for as they move into the house and that emotional hook is an important in any horror film because if you don’t care what happens to the characters, you’re not invested in the story. Members of the Perron family just feel like real people, they’re banter and joke with each other, get along and fight as normal families do but ultimately come together to help each other when things start going south and it’s interesting to see and importantly you’re led to care about the characters and their odeal. The actors playing the Perron family who live in the haunted house in general are all pretty solid, Lili Taylor as Carolyn stands out, as does Joey King who plays daughter Christine, the kids get to play a fairly important role in events as the plot goes on and needed to be decent, managing to keep their composure in the more harrowing scenes as well.
You won’t see anything in The Conjuring that you haven’t seen before but it’s still one of the best horror films in years and that speaks a lot to its great direction, mix of practical effects/CG, strong performances and a very engaging story that escalates to some interesting conclusions.
. Good use of practical effects combined with CG, things look more ‘real’
. Engaging, emotionally filled story
. Has some good performances