The Conjuring REVIEW

The Conjuring film review.

The Conjuring

“I told you we should have recorded these vox pops in the daytime.”

Release Date: 2 August 2013
15 | 112 minutes
Director: James Wan
Cast: Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Ron Livingston, Lili Taylor

How do you get around the fact that modern technology has made many traditional horror tropes obsolete? Simple. Go back to a time when help isn’t conveniently on the other end of a mobile phone call, and spooky mysteries can’t be investigated by a simple Google search. It’s a ploy that works brilliantly for ’70s-set horror The Conjuring – the decade of Abba and flares hasn’t been this scary since Halloween.

Riding on a high after Insidious, director James Wan has constructed a superior chiller. Sure, nothing about The Conjuring is particularly original – elements of Poltergeist, The Exorcist and The Amityville Horror are sprinkled liberally throughout – but Wan sidesteps any potential déjà vu by assembling the building blocks of fright in the right order and with an impeccable sense of timing. This is a meticulously and ingeniously crafted scare machine.

The set-up is classic haunted house fare. A likeable couple (Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor) and their small army of daughters move into a creepy old doer-upper in the country. Inevitably, it’s the stuff an estate agent wouldn’t usually mention that soon becomes a big deal – little things like the dogs being afraid to go inside, unidentified noises at night, and a secret cellar packed with freaky antiques. When haunting-induced sleep deprivation starts to become a big issue, they do the only logical thing and call in Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga), crack paranormal investigators based on real-life ghostbusters who studied the “actual” Amityville haunting.

Don’t be misled by the presence of Saw on Wan’s CV – The Conjuring’s scares are more psychological than gory. As in many horror classics, it’s the things you don’t see that scare you the most, and the brilliant use of ominous bumps, creaks and crashes (the sound design is flawless) helps make the atmosphere relentlessly, stomach-knottingly tense.

The film does start to unravel in the final act as the house’s hoary old backstory reveals itself and you start to learn a little too much about what’s going on. But until then The Conjuring makes the most of its “based on a true story” billing, believable enough to have even the most rational of viewers thinking that something very nasty might be about to cross the fourth wall.

Richard Edwards

Read a James Wan interview about The Conjuring.
Watch a The Conjuring trailer.
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