Take a deep breath of fresh air. Go ahead. I'll wait.
That's the best way to sum up James Wan's The Conjuring. It's truly a breath of fresh air in the Horror genre; original, well-made, well-acted, well-written and, most of all, scary!
Based on the files of ghost-hunting couple Ed and Lorraine Warren, The Conjuring tells the story of a family who moves into a deal of a house out in the Rhode Island countryside. For Carolyn and Roger Perron (and their five daughters) things are quickly turned upside down as strange happenings begin in their new home.
Before they know it, the Perron family calls Ed and Lorraine Warren for help in determining just what the hell is going on in their home and why it's happening.
Playing out more like Poltergeist than Friday the 13th, the strengths of The Conjuring lay more in what isn't shown than what actually is. Remember those days kids? Surely anyone who's into Horror films can relate to being terrified that someone or something was in their closet, under their bed, or waiting in the shadows. The screenplay by Chad and Carey Hayes really sticks to the point of the story and only brings in some minor subplots, though overall, it's really a fat-free Horror story at its heart.
I recently read that James Wan studied various 1970s films to model the way he had this film shot; it shows. Set in 1971, when the actual case occurred, it's nice to see a period Horror film taken seriously and not just an uber fan director trying to emulate the style of "a Horror movie from the 70s". Everything about this film feels authentic and that was truly something that I appreciated and helped make the world within the film that much more real and believable.
As Ed and Lorraine Warren, Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga embody two characters who really can be (hopefully) the next great Horror franchise characters . . . more on that later. Both actors bring their A-games and, although the story is about the Perron family, their performances really pull viewer interest towards the Warrens. Lili Taylor and Ron Livingston are also in fine form as Carolyn and Roger (the girls who play their daughters are all exceptional as well); in fact, I was truly impressed with everything that all of the major players allow themselves to go through in this film!
Keeping in mind that this film is based on factual accounts and that Ed and Lorraine Warren are very real paranormal investigators, there's a sense of realism found here that you don't really see in too many Horror films. Sure, it's so easy to slap "Based on a true story..." onto a film and watch the money roll in, but . . . well, do the research yourself on this case after you see the film and come to your own conclusion. In fact, while browsing around, I found a photo gallery of Lorraine in the Warrens' basement occult museum; in the photo was a particular item featured in The Conjuring and seeing the real thing definitely sent a shiver over me.
The moment the lights went up in the theater, I immediately had to Google the Warrens as their name and story seemed very familiar to me . . . I almost knew I'd seen something with them before. Sure enough, they both appeared in the Fangoria documentary series Scream Greats Vol II: Satanism and Witchcraft, with their interview footage and testimonials butting heads with a bargain basement practicing Satanist! Again, this realization just made this movie that much more real for me.
Speaking of that occult museum . . . having investigated over 10,000 paranormal cases since starting their career in 1952 (Ed unfortunately passed away in 2006, but Lorraine still investigates on her own), the Warrens have amassed quite a collection of artifacts and trinkets which were central to each and every investigation. In the film, it plays almost like the antique shop in Friday the 13th: The Series and one immediately wonders how much of it is made up . . . oh, I assure you, it's very real though! Basically, as it's portrayed in the film, it's a virtual endless fountain of macguffins for continuing the continuing adventures of Ed and Lorraine very much in the vein of Kolchak: The Night Stalker! After seeing this film and looking up a little history on the Warrens, it's apparent that their four other most famous investigations would make incredible movies . . . in fact, the door is left wide open for a sequel focusing on what is perhaps their most famous case!
By the end of the film, audiences will have seen everything went in expecting without the usual stereotypical bullshit found in most mainstream Horror films released during the summer months (ie: no ridiculous CGI final showdown that has viewers distracted by how fake everything looks). If you're a serious Horror fan, please do yourself a favor and go see this film now . . . it's already on track to be a hit, but please support it for the fact that it's an original, R-rated serious Horror film.