The Conjuring

Year: 2013
Production Co: Evergreen Media Group
Director: James Wan
Writer: Chad Hayes/Carey Hayes
Cast: Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Lili Taylor, Ron Livingston

Not long ago it was announced that The Conjuring director James Wan, the horror wunderkind who cut his Hollywood teeth co-writing and directing the original Saw, had been installed to take the reins of the Fast and Furious franchise.

In a way, it makes perfect sense. The horror genre offers a unique opportunity to make films for very low budgets that return their investment many times over because of a rabidly devoted fanbase, something Wan has down to a fine art after the success of Insidious.

Of course, jump-scares and ghosts are very different from flipping cars over ten to the dozen and telling the likes of Vin Diesel and The Rock what to do, so it remains to be seen how Wan does with one of Universal's biggest properties.

But for now he's in territory that's as comfortable as a wooly slipper, an old-school chiller that scales back gore to focus on traditional haunted house tension, bursting from the screen with the occasional out-of-your-seat shock.

It's based on the true story of Ed and Lorraine Warren, a married team of psychic investigators and exorcists in the early 1970s as they look into the case of the Perron family. Played by Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson, Ed and Lorraine find married suburbanites Carolyn (Lili Taylor) and Roger (Ron Livingston) at the end of their rope.

Something has been going bump in the night in their huge, dark house, keeping the Perrons' four girls awake and making life hell. After hearing about the exploits of the Warrens, Roger and Carolyn invite them to take a look, but as Ed explains at one point, he's begun to worry about Lorraine. Every manifestation of the beyond that she sees takes something out of her, and he's not sure how much more she has to give.

The presence drawn to the four girls becomes more insistent, terrifying and eventually dangerous, and in that part of the movie every horror film needs – the detective work – the Warrens and Perrons uncover the house's grisly history, one that goes back to the local witchcraft trials.

Even though the film has a true story pedigree, it's pitched very much at the average horror buff. Wan seems much more concerned with eliciting fright than historical accuracy, and the true case was probably far less dramatic than this, with one of the screaming daughters being dragged across the floor by an invisible assailant and various nightmarish figures showing themselves at the scariest possible moment.

One thing you might consider a downside (but which might be all just part of the fun in a traditional ghost story) is the clichés and tropes horror is famous for as much as it's laughed at. If a character hearing something in a dark basement or outside on the patio during a storm before immediately going alone to see what it is your horror movie pet hate, get ready for much gnashing of teeth.

Like all classic horror houses, the Perrons' creaky mansion is huge, old and poorly lit, but that's all in the service of a more effective a tool in Wan's box of tricks to make your skin slowly crawl before he tears back the curtain to show you a putrefying, white-skinned body with a maniacal grin and a kitchen knife.

To many fans, that's what horror's all about. If you agree, you'll have a perfectly fine time with The Conjuring.

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