The first time I saw the original 1979 version of The Amityville Horror I slept with the lights on for three weeks. Granted, I was 12 years old, but still. Nothing hits home quite like a good haunted house film.
Last night I was lucky enough to see an advanced screening of James Wan’s new horror film The Conjuring. For those of you unfamiliar with James Wan he is the man behind Saw, Insidious, and the upcoming Insidious 2. Wan has more than proven himself to be knockout in the horror genre and The Conjuring is no exception.
The film is based on the supposed true story of the Perron family and their supernatural experience in an old farmhouse in Rhode Island in the 70’s. We also follow the paranormal investigators who come to the family’s aid, the Warrens (Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson.) The family is terrorized by multiple spirits, one in particular that is out for blood. Personally, I’m a sucker for any scary movie that claims to be “based on a true story.” But this film has a lot more going for it than that.
It’s important to note the acting in the film. Lily Taylor gives an excellent performance as the mother, Carolyn Perron. Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson have chemistry onscreen and portray the Warrens as real, rational people which adds to the “based on a true story” vibe. Let’s put it this way, the Warren’s aren’t hokey ghostbusters, they’re legit. The kids who play the Perron’s daughters are also notable. There’s something inherently disturbing about a kid having a visceral reaction to something scary and they all play that card well.
For me this movie is the perfect combination of a slow burn with some serious payoffs. Wan does a great job of keeping suspense and building tension throughout the film without relying on cheap or fake scares. This is definitely a classic ghost story but don’t get fooled into thinking it’s psychological, or that all the action happens off camera. There are plenty of real, tangible things to scare you as well as the subtle spooks.
From the awesome 70’s soundtrack to the eery score this film sets the tone immediately. While it’s moderately paced, there’s no time wasted and I guarantee you’ll be curled up in your seat within the first three minutes.
This movie feels like a real return to old school haunted house stories on par with films like The Amityville Horror, The Haunting, and The Changeling. My only criticism would be a seemingly unnecessary cliché cop character who feels more like forced comic relief than part of the story. If you’re into horror, see this movie. If you’re not, don’t see it alone. It’s one thing to make people jump in a theater but when a movie really resonates with you and leaves you feeling afraid of the dark later that night, that’s when you’ve done a good job. And I definitely left the bathroom light on last night.