In Review: The Conjuring

by Alan Simmons on 29/07/2013


Ed and Lorraine Warren were a psychic medium and demonologist double act famous in America for their ghost-busting. They founded the New England Society for Psychic Research and would go to haunted houses and offer rational explanations for strange occurrences or record enough evidence to get you an exorcism. In his Insidious follow-up, The Conjuring, director James Wan pushes the Warrens to their very limits.

The case files of Ed and Lorraine have provided Hollywood with horror movies in the form of two pops at The Amityville Horror (which is briefly, but smartly, paid lip service, and possible sequel service, here) and the little-seen but scary, The Haunting in Connecticut.

Perfectly played by Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson, Ed and Lorraine take on a case in Rhode Island, where the Perron family (Lili Taylor and Ron Livingston star as Ma and Pa Perron) have gotten into a right paranormal pickle. Despite red flags including: their dog refusing to enter the house, the youngest kid’s new creepy imaginary friend, cold spots, mysterious bruising and the pervading stench of death, the Perrons don’t want to move and seek unconventional help.

The first act provides blood-freezing scares with Wan tightening the tension to unbearable levels. The film then gets even better when the Warrens show up and we start a thrilling – and calculatedly jumpy – ghost hunt. A subplot featuring the scariest doll ever seen on screen, Annabel, is so damn frightening that I wouldn’t bet against the demonic toy receiving her own spin-off movie. Unfortunately, another tangent implying the mother’s imagination being a root cause is left to dangle, when the possibility of it all being in her head, or her even being the culprit, could have been tantalisingly teased out.

Like Insidious the problem with The Conjuring is that once the spooky stuff literally shows its face, the spell isn’t exactly broken, but it is compromised. The demons here are a million times more restrained than The Mighty Boosh-like beastie that derailed Wan’s last movie, but are still enough to hamstring the endeavour.

Alan has awarded The Conjuring four Torches of Truth

four torches

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