US | 2013 | Directed by James Wan
Logline: Two paranormal investigators help to free a family terrorised by a demonic force inhabiting their farmhouse.
James Wan is the Australian boy done good in Hollywood. First was the Saw (2004) franchise he created with screenwriter/actor Leigh Whanell, then Insidious (2010), and now The Conjuring, a true story that’s been kicking around Tinseltown for the past twenty years or more, has gone gangbusters at the box office. Made for a modest $US13m or so, it’s reaped more than $US120m. Surely Wan must have the keys to the city. So what’s he doing next? Fast and Furious 7. But I digress.
The Warren Files (the movie’s working title) were the work of married couple Ed and Lorraine Warren. Apparently the case that involved the Perron family and their Rhode Island farmhouse in 1973 was the most supernaturally malevolent case they had ever investigated. It certainly makes for a creepy-as-hell movie.
The screenplay by twin brothers Chad and Carey Hayes is a solid number, up until the very end, when the most disappointing excuse for a happy ending serves up a family beachside memory as the saviour of the day. It’s a hasty, very lazy, and for the horrorphiles who’ve enjoyed the atmospheric and genuinely unnerving events up that point, real cop-out. Since when did the truth get in the way of a good horror movie? They should’ve taken inspiration from the very enjoyable, and surprisingly downbeat Sinister (2012).
The production values of the movie are high, the casting is excellent, and the performances of all are impressive; Patrick Wilson as Ed Warren, Vera Farmiga as Lorraine, Lily Taylor as Carolyn Perron, Ron Livingston as her husband Roger, and their five daughters, Andrea (Shanley Caswell), Nancy (Hayley McFarland), Christine (Joey King), Cindy (Mackenzie Foy), and April (Kyla Deaver).
The excellent score from Joseph Bishara is one of the movie’s standout elements. Curious to note that Bishara plays the demonic figure Bathsheba Sherma. In Insidious he portrayed the Lipstick Demon, and he also scored that movie.
Wan has made an old-fashioned horror movie relying more on a creeping sense of doom, with several excellent se-pieces, the most memorable and genuinely frightening being the scene when young Christine wakes and is terrified by a presence she believes is lurking behind the bedroom door. The use of darkness, combined with Bishara’s music powerfully nightmarish.
Although The Conjuring is not too dissimilar to Insidious, with paranormal investigators, doll-like demon ghosts, and the reliance on a deliberate retro-feel for the movie’s atmosphere, The Conjuring is a much better movie overall. But there is Insidious 2 due out later this year, and of course, The Conjuring 2 is in the works. Both movies were low budget (in Hollywood terms), but did a killing at the box office. Hollwyood producers are the worst repeat offenders.