Summer is generally known as the time for big-budgeted action blockbusters. However, that doesn't necessarily put a complete halt on the remainder of the genres. Even though this isn't usually the season for horror films, Warner Bros. isn't being bashful with promoting its newest motion picture The Conjuring. With James Wan behind the camera, an eerie visual atmosphere is expected. After making pictures such as Saw and Insidious, he has decided to stick with the paranormal angle for a little bit. He continues to elevate his ability to get under the skin of the audience. This film proves how he's able to transform what could have been genre fodder into a genuinely scary moviegoing experience. Horror films like this don't come around very often.
Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) have multiple job titles, but are most commonly known as paranormal investigators and demonologists. After giving numerous public lectures, they're approached by Carolyn Perron (Lili Taylor). She seeks their help in order to save her family from a dark presence living within their newly-purchased farmhouse. This film captures what the Warrens claim to be the most terrifying case that they have ever worked on. Not only is this the story of the Perrons, but it documents the dynamics of the relationship between the Warrens.
Screenwriters Chad Hayes and Carey Hayes don't waste any time, as they quickly dive into the material by showing a previous case. One of the biggest misconceptions in horror flicks is that countless filmmakers assume that ghosts and demons are the same. The mythologies of the two are incredibly different, yet they're almost always portrayed as the same thing. Fortunately, The Conjuring explains the difference from the beginning. From there, the audience is introduced to the Perron family. While we never get the chance to learn very much about any of these individuals, they come across as an ordinary family, making them easy to relate to. While they don't always make the smartest of choices, their actions never feel utterly ridiculous. Even though the Warrens don't receive quite as much screen time, we learn a little bit more about them. Ultimately, it isn't very difficult to connect with any of the lead characters, which makes it easy to care about what happens to them.
One of the worst reactions that one could have with a horror movie is to find scenes unintentionally funny. A filmmaker is successful when they're able to convey the intended emotions. There aren't any unintentionally laughs to be had through The Conjuring. Director James Wan clearly understands how over-the-top some of the sequences can become, but he manages to tone them down and transform that energy into tension. However, there isn't much that can be done about the dialogue. Writers Chad Hayes and Carey Hayes struggle with some of the interactions between the characters. Given the fact that this is a horror film, nobody will see this for well-written dialogue anyways. Regardless, this is probably the best work that has come from this writing duo.
The Conjuring's strongest asset is its execution. Director James Wan has ensured that this film will convey true scares and an enormous amount of genuine tension. There are a few "jump scares," but none of them are the tacky clichés that viewers will be expecting. The sudden jolts are utilized rather well, and they most certainly made me jump a few times. However, the real shining element of this motion picture is the shocking amount of tension that has been included. Wan keeps audiences on the edge of their seats with a subtle "creep factor." Not only will these scenes creep you out while watching them, but they will continue to haunt you after the credits are done rolling. The narrative itself is so well-paced that it makes the running time fly by rather quickly. However, those moments of tension slow things down to a halt in the best way possible.
Audiences around the world mock the actors in horror films, since the performances are usually dreadful. However, this cast manages to actually deliver some solid representations. Vera Farmiga is great in the role of Lorraine Warren. She's believable and sympathetic, yet she commands the screen quite often. Patrick Wilson plays Ed Warren rather well. He's convincing enough in this role, despite the fact that his character doesn't receive as much attention. Lili Taylor conveys fear very well as Carolyn Perron. Between Taylor and Farmiga, the women clearly deliver the best performances in this film. They won't win any Oscars for these representations, but this is some of the best acting I've seen in a horror flick in a while.
Much like Insidious, The Conjuring has a stunningly haunting tone that fits the material to perfection. The cinematography is strong and the camerawork simply enhances the tension. There's an extremely small amount of blood through the entire duration, as Wan uses suspense in order to shock his audiences. Putting aside the loud jolts, he utilizes silence to his advantage. This increases the anticipation of what will come next by an enormous amount. Not only are the visuals extraordinary, but the sound design is exceptional. The dialogue is clear and the track gets rather aggressive when it needs to. However, it also works extremely well through its more subtle sequences. The visual atmosphere and audio track are immensely important when it comes to a horror picture, and The Conjuring succeeds on all levels.
This film might not be the most original, but the execution is brilliant. The only reason why the MPAA provided an R-rating is because they deemed it too scary for younger audiences. Some of the dialogue can sometimes be seen as being a bit over-the-top, but it doesn't affect this feature's ability to scare its viewers. Director James Wan doesn't need gore or the sole use of "jump scares" to shock his audiences, as he utilizes a much more subtle and eerie approach. While there are loud jolts to be found throughout, they aren't always happening and they are well-placed. The Conjuring is the best horror film I have seen in quite some time. This is for those who are searching for the "creep factor" that horror flicks have been lacking lately. Highly recommended!