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  • Writer's pictureMartyn Wakefield


Dir. James Wan

Reviewer. Martyn Wakefield

Patrick Wilson, James Wan, Joseph Bishara, puppets, paranormal investigators, no, this is not ‘Insidious Chapter 2’.

Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) prelude their more famous Amityville investigation with something a little more terrifying. Requested to help the Perron family after paranormal activity drives them beyond their idyllic lifestyle. Lead by Roger and Carolyn (Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor), the shocking true life events that haunted the family are bought to screen by horror icon James Wan.

Learning that the house they have moved into is not only occupied by one ghost, but the remnants of several spirits and towering them all is the spirit of a witch who will not leave any resident alive. Piecing together the puzzle are two bumbling junior investigators (Shannon Kook and John Brotherton) bringing the much needed humour to an otherwise dark and horrifying story.

What unravels over the running time of ‘The Conjuring’ is the twisted nightmare child of ‘Insidious’ and ‘Amityville Horror’ captured on a palette of 70’s brown and cream, the vivid reality that these events occurred only adds to the terror.

And if this was not enough, Wan has cleverly interwoven a subplot and insight into the lives of the Warrens introducing some of his signature puppet fascination just to add a further scares and a deeper plot that looks set to be explored in a possible sequel. (A James Wan directed Amityville is always welcome.)

Wan has certainly cemented his name as a new King of Horror with ‘Saw’, ‘Dead Silence’ and ‘Insidious’ already under his belt he certainly has one of the most flawless résumés in cinema history and ‘The Conjuring’ is the perfect addition to the family.

There are moments in ‘The Conjuring’ where you will need to tell yourself it’s only a movie as Bishara’s soundtrack unnerves its audience in a haunted trance. From make up to script, the essence of fear is in the detail and working directly with the real Warrens, the “story” becomes ever more horrific. Scenes of brutal exorcism, emotional charged characters and jump-out-your-seat moments a plenty, to call ‘The Conjuring’ a thrill-ride is an understatement.

At times its hard to distinguish this from the likes of ‘Insidious’ and ‘Amityville’ amongst other haunted house/possession films but the 70’s look is done justice and wouldn’t look amiss in a double bill with the classics of the genre. Attention to detail has been paid to everything from filters to sound, this truly is the pinnacle of James Wan’s career.

Wilson proves why he is fastly becoming a genre favourite and the chemistry between him and Farmiga is explosive and an opportunity we HAVE to see again. It is however, the trauma shown by Lili Taylor and the children, that brings together the horror of what is unravelling around them. It seems that her show stealing performance in 1999’s rather hideous ‘The Haunting’ remake finally gets her credit as the fantastic star she is.

Some may question the reality of the events depicted but one thing is certain, much like ‘The Amityville Horror’, it sure makes for a damn scary film and with a year where horror has been at the forefront of cinema, ‘The Conjuring’ ratchets up the benchmark for things to come. With Wan’s other film of 2013, 'Insidious Chapter 2’, he didn't quite hit the ground as cleanly as he has done with 'The Conjuring'. With so close subject and similarities between the two including cast, sound and crew, it would be easy to create two clones under different names but Wan has made two great films that are worlds apart. Albeit, 'The Conjuring' is the better one.

Crammed into the Blu-Ray release are several additional documentaries including Wan's introduction to his world showing us what makes him tick but more importantly includes the featurette 'A Life in Demonology' which looks further into the real life scares that inspired 'The Conjuring'. It will make you think your simplest object is the sign of the Devil.

There is without doubt, as we look set to close off 2013, that 'The Conjuring' is THE horror film of the year and if you haven't seen it already, you better hope you are on Santa's good list.

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