wed 19/06/2024

The Conjuring | reviews, news & interviews

The Conjuring

The Conjuring

The director of 'Saw' and 'Insidious' delivers frights aplenty in a true-life tale of paranormal investigators

Evil is in the eye of the beholder: Vera Farmiga stares down spirits in 'The Conjuring'

Things go bump in the night in James Wan's chilling latest, based on a supposedly true story. The Conjuring is an event horror movie, benefitting from a sizeable marketing budget and the distribution of a major studio (Warner Bros); appropriately enough it simply screams to be seen. And those looking for a touch of class to elevate their frights will find it heartening to hear that there's a leading role for Oscar nominee Vera Farmiga.

Lili Taylor and Ron Livingston play Carolyn and Roger Perron, the parents of five “spirited” girls. The year is 1971 and the family have moved into an old, isolated farmhouse in Harrisville, Rhode Island, but they're far from the property's only residents and their arrival sets into motion a very traditional terror. It’s not long before a desperate Carolyn seeks the help of renowned paranormal experts Lorraine and Ed Warren (Farmiga and Patrick Wilson, who we've followed at work from the outset) who quickly confirm that there is indeed a malevolent force at work. Aiding in their investigation are the Warrens' credulous assistant Drew (Shannon Kook) and local cop and sceptic Brad (John Brotherton).

Wan's latest has remarkable similarities to his last film, the phenomenally successful and (at least) conceptually interesting Insidious, which too focused on a family terrorised by a hostile haunting, also assisted by paranormal investigators. Yet while that film felt histrionic throughout,The Conjuring builds in a more satisfying, well orchestrated way, starting with chills and unleashing its terror little by little with less reliance on cheap shocks.

The film's (relatively) restrained, respectful feel may have been prompted by the collaboration of both the real Lorraine Warren and the Perron family. Although a weak script provides the superior cast with limited meat, not helped by having two sets of leads competing for screen-time, Farmiga and Taylor give suitably and increasingly intense performances. Both have form in the genre, from Orphan and The Haunting respectively. The audience need to believe in the onscreen terror to be afraid of it, and these ladies play a big part in ensuring that we do.

Wan has more than earned his stripes in the genre, considering helming horror pictures to be - and frequently demonstrating that it is - a craft. Yet originality-wise there's little here to rival Wan's solo debut Saw (its impact and reputation since diluted by numerous sequels) and often The Conjuring feels like a by-the-numbers frightener, albeit one crafted by a superior hand. Wan’s sixth feature ticks an almost dispiriting number of horror boxes - scary doll (pictured above right), sinister music box, creepy tree, forbidding basement - although to be fair, when it does lean on clichés such sequences are at least well-executed and the effects consistently impress. For instance, there's a nicely macabre moment involving the aforementioned doll and a rocking chair. I also loved the bed-sheet blown away by the wind that catches wickedly on an unseen form, and the small hands that emerge from the wardrobe during the blindfold clapping game.

The Conjuring delivers solid scares and tangible terror in a convincing period package. It’s unlikely to induce any sleepless nights or feature on any current or future top 10 horror lists, but it's still a welcome addition to the genre which will satisfy those looking for an elegant, haunted house story in the manner of The Others, The Orphanage or The Woman in Black. At the very least it’ll have you believing in ghosts for approximately 110 minutes.

Overleaf: watch the trailer for The Conjuring

Follow @EmmaSimmonds on Twitter


'The Conjuring' builds in a satisfying, well orchestrated way, starting with chills and unleashing its terror little by little


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 15,000 pieces, we're asking for £5 per month or £40 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take a subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters