In the last few years, we’ve seen resurgence in the good old fashioned scary movie. Not the slasher flicks that dominated the late ’70s and most of the ’80s or the monster movies that ruled drive-ins in the ’50s and ’60s, but the kinds of movies where it is scarier in what you don’t see than what you do.
The Conjuring continues that streak of films. Directed by James Wan (Insidious, Saw) and written by twin brothers, Chad and Carey Hayes (The Reaping and House of Wax remake), The Conjuring is based off the true events in 1971 where real-life paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorraine Warren, helped the Perrons, a family of seven, with a haunting/evil spirit problem in a house that they had recently purchased.
Ron Livingston (Office Space) plays Roger Perron, the financially strapped patriarch, and Lili Taylor (High Fidelity) plays wife and mother, Carolyn. They are parents to Andrea (Shanley Caswell), Nancy (Hayley McFarland), Christine (Joey King), Cindy (Mackenzie Foy) and April (Kyla Deaver). The girls, of course, begin to see strange things in the new house, and one night something bad happens that is witnessed by every Perron family member. This event pushes Carolyn to seek out Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) Warren to come out and investigate, and the real fun is allowed to begin.
The story that wraps the entirety of the creepiness is well done, with layers of subtext that dabbles in witchcraft, demonology, and possession of objects. The overall explanation of why these things are happening is decent, and works here to give Wan and his cast reason to scare the bejeezus out of the audience.
And these are the good scares. There is no “cat jumping into a scene at the perfect time,” or heart-stopping gore. This is deep, “it’s all in your mind” horror that works well. I didn’t find myself jumping out of my seat, but the hairs on the back of my neck spent most of the movie standing at attention, and I squinted a few times expecting something very bad to happen. I love these kinds of scares, and prefer them to the “bump and run” variety any day.
The production as a whole has a perfect 1970’s feel, and Lili Taylor’s performance must be mentioned, as she nails the early ’70’s mother/wife perfectly. Ron Livingston wears a ridiculous wig (it was the hairstyle then, I know that, but it still looks ridiculous) and does his best to play off of Taylor who is selling gold to whoever is buying.
The kids are serviceable as a whole, and Farmiga and Wilson are great together as the Warrens, and could very be the foundation that launches a franchise if Wan and company decided to go that route. This marks the third time that Wilson and Wan have worked together, having made both Insidious and soon-to be released Insidious: Chapter 2.
It’s also important to mention that The Conjuring is rated R. This gives the filmmakers the freedom to push the envelope rather than be shackled by a box office friendly youth-aimed PG-13 rating. This doesn’t mean that it’s a gory, sex-filled romp. In fact, I can barely tell the difference between a rated “R” The Conjuring and what would be a rated “PG-13” The Conjuring. I know that my friends (myself included) will skip a horror movie in the theater if it’s not rated “R” so time will tell if The Conjuring’s higher rating pays off.
The Conjuring is a creepy, goose-bump inducing ride through some real life events. It’s also an ensemble film, and each cast member does their part to recreate those events and scare the crap out of anyone brave enough to watch it. It’s not gory and the scares are more cerebral, so if that’s your thing, put on a pair of clean undies and go see this movie. You won’t be disappointed.
The Conjuring is rated R and opens in theaters everywhere on Friday, July 19, 2013.