What do you do when a movie is so scary that you can’t even laugh away to conceal your fear? What do you do when the only way to see a film is through the little slit between your fingers, as your palm covers your face? What do you do when a jump scare comes right out of the blue and you end up wetting your pants and your seat? 'The Conjuring' poses all these questions during its blitzkrieg of a runtime.
Directed by modern horror maestro James Wan, 'The Conjuring' takes all the familiar elements of exorcism based horror movies and puts a deadly new spin on them, resulting in a film that is not only genuinely terrifying but also a well-made one. Wan, who previously made Saw and was single handedly responsible for glorifying the torture porn genre in the 2000s weaves an artful, tasteful horror film that takes a subtle, quiet approach to induce scares rather than the loud, ear drum shattering, bloody, gory way most Hollywood horror films do.
No doubt, Wan’s decision to create a horror film devoid of overblown special effects harks back to Guillermo Del Toro who introduced 'The Orphanage and Mama' to audiences, proving that you don’t need brutality and bump in the dark clichés to frighten the audience. 'The Conjuring' takes cues from both those films and even Wan’s previous movie Insidious and offers nonstop delicious mayhem. The film claims to be based on a true story but clearly that is more marketing bullshit than authenticity. It doesn’t matter because only a foolish person would believe in demonic possessions and the film is smart enough to appreciate and acknowledge its audience’s mental sophistication. But whether or not you believe in demonic possessions, 'The Conjuring' is guaranteed to give you a sleepless night or two.
Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga star as the aforementioned true life paranormal investigators whose latest case takes them to the seemingly haunted house of the Perron family (Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor). Here is where the ‘premise’ ends – what more can you possibly do with a possession film – but instead of borrowing elements from 'The Exorcist' the film whips out imagery you’ve never seen before.
The tension is quite unbearable and the fact that you’re not familiar with the scare tactics makes it an even more unsettling watch. Moreover, whatever horror tropes Wan does borrow, he executes them with new camera angles, settings and aesthetic trickery to give them a sense of ingenuity. Instead of the hackneyed demon voice, there is a contorting person shrouded with a sheet and tied to a chair.
Instead of the stereotypical mirror scare, there is a music box with a reflective surface in which an object appears the moment the music stops. They should give prize money to folks who manage to keep their eyes open when it does.