When a really good new horror film comes out, one that's more about creative intelligence than executing the next grisly kill shot, it's something of a miracle in this eviscerating post-
Also like "Amityville," "The Conjuring" derives from an alleged true-life haunting, this one in rural Rhode Island, at an old house where terrible things happened and are happening still. The relative restraint of "The Conjuring" is a surprise given that the director,
The script by Chad Hayes and Carey W. Hayes blends the tales of two families under extreme duress. Demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren, the real-life ghost hunters played by
Shooting digitally but with great attention to practical and post-production lighting and color effects, director Wan and his cinematographer, John R. Leonetti, keep the "Gotchas!" coming. Near the end, when the full-on possession is under way, "The Conjuring" starts to feel more familiar, and there's less down-time between thrills. (Wan's technique grows more obviously hysterical as the characters do.) Wilson, a solid actor, brings to the material a stalwart leading-man aura that's more serviceable than compelling on its own.
But the movie belongs to the women, for once, and "The Conjuring" doesn't exploit or mangle the female characters in the usual ways. Farmiga, playing a true believer, makes every spectral sighting and human response matter; Taylor is equally fine, and when she's playing a "hide and clap" blindfold game with her girls, she's like a kid herself, about to get the jolt of her life.
Wan shoots "The Conjuring" like a Robert Altman film, slip-sliding around the interior or the exterior of the old dark house in a series of slow zooms and gratifyingly complex extended takes. Might this movie actually be too good, in a slightly square way, to find the audience it deserves among under-twentysomethings? Maybe. Maybe not. I hope not.
MPAA rating: R for sequences of disturbing violence and terror
Running time: 1 hour, 52 minutes
Playing: In wide release