Hot off of Insidious, a film that many considered to be successful for excising the in-your-face blood and gore of his Saw films, James Wan started production on his next film. It was to be an exploration of the Warren case files, one that was supposedly so terrifying that it hadn’t been revealed to the public until now.
The film has a dual narrative in which one thread shows us the lives of the Warrens, Ed and Lorraine, while the other tells the story of the Perron family who are experiencing a series of paranormal disturbances in their home. When their paths cross, it seems that literally all hell has broken loose.
The Conjuring is not without its problems. The family, I felt, was too large for us to get attached to all of them. I sometimes lost track of which child was which. From a writer’s perspective, I feel that maybe some of the children could have been combined. The parents, however, were developed nicely and the viewer really gets an idea of the husband’s love for his wife, especially during the climactic exorcism scene. Torn between wanting to stop her from being in pain and taking the Warrens at their word that if the exorcism isn’t completed her soul will be in immortal peril, actor Ron Livingston does a great job showing his uncertainty and fear.
The Conjuring really succeeds in two places though. First, the scares are genuinely frightening, making Wan’s effort the cinematic equivalent of a haunted house attraction. Secondly, the inclusion of the Warrens was great. Wan really made them human characters, by showing several instances of their love for each other and their daughter. With them, he resists the temptation to simply portray them as the mythological caricatures that they so easily could’ve been. Following them as well as the Perron family made the story meatier as a whole. It also makes the experience feel more original, despite obvious similarities to Poltergeist and The Amityville Horror.
I feel The Conjuring is Wan’s best film thus far. It feels more confident than Insidious, less excessive than Saw, and, well, we won’t talk about Dead Silence. Highly recommended for fans of paranormal horror.
The Conjuring opens today in Philly area theaters.