James Wan has fast become one of the most prominent directors in the world of horror cinema. With stellar features like Saw, Dead Silence and Insidious under his belt, Wan continues his winning streak with The Conjuring, a truly chilling take on the haunted house film.
The Conjuring follows paranormal investigators Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorna Warren (Vera Farmiga) as they investigate the case of a family who believe their home to be haunted by a demon. The film is reportedly based on a real case that the Warrens worked on.
Opening with titles reminiscent of The Exorcist with striking yellow text against a black background, Wan gives us an insight into his inspirations for The Conjuring which become further apparent throughout the feature. There’s also early references to Richard Attenborough’s Magic and Wan’s own Dead Silence in the film’s tense and darkly comic opening scene which showcases one of the Warren’s previous cases.
This nostalgia for classic horror becomes even more apparent when we are introduced to The Perron family, who live in a large, old-fashioned house that screams parallels with Amityville’s 112 Ocean Avenue. Despite this fond nostalgia Chad and Carey Hayes’ narrative and set-pieces feel staggeringly fresh – as do Wan’s inventive scares. By taking the genre and the ghost-hunting angle back to the 1970s, The Conjuring provides an inventive spin on concepts that could be classed as clichéd.
Wan’s direction is packed with unexpected scares and horror set-pieces all executed with an unsettling sense of tension. Standouts scares come from a game of hide and clap gone wrong and a children’s toy mirror in which evil spirits appear – the latter of these is likely to have you hunched back in your seat, hands clenched. The aesthetic of The Conjuring is not particularly gore-heavy, with Wan favouring haunting chills instead of gross-out visuals, a decision that makes The Conjuring a classy, atmospheric watch.
The Conjuring is given further conviction by a stellar cast, each bring a powerful emotion to their respective parts. These characters expand beyond simple triggers for the film’s horror, The Hayes captures a distinct human side to all their characters from Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson’s Warrens to Lili Taylor’s Carolyn Perron. Farmiga is particularly excellent as she showcases her character’s growing weakness as a result of the her toiling psychic gifts.
The Conjuring is a tense, downright chilling take on the haunted house film skilfully executed by James Wan. The feature pays homage to several genre classics whilst still feeling like a fresh and original addition to the genre.
Release Date: 25th June 2013 (EIFF) 2nd August 2013(UK Cinema)
Director: James Wan
Stars: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson,Lili Taylor, Ron Livingston, Joey King