The Conjuring – Film Review – 2013 – Film Dispenser

Film July 19, 2013 Scott Phillips
Scott serves as the Content Programmer for the Way Down Film Festival held in Columbus, Georgia every Fall.

I think I may be in love with James Wan. It’s a platonic, cinematic love, but love nonetheless. He directed the best horror film of 2010, Insidious. And now, he’s given us The Conjuring, one of the best horror films I’ve ever seen in this, or any other, decade. In one of my reviews earlier this year, I compared the search for a good horror movie to panning for gold. Well, The Conjuring is the entire California Gold Rush rolled into one amazing film.

Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) were two of the world’s foremost investigators of the paranormal in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Lorraine is a clairvoyant who can sense, and at times see, the spirits from the past that are at work in the present. Ed’s expertise is demonology. His knowledge of the subject makes him the only non-clergy demonologist ever consulted by the Catholic Church.

While giving a lecture at Western Massachusetts University, the Warrens meet Carolyn Perron (Lili Taylor), who fears that her home is under siege from demonic forces. The Warrens explain that the vast majority of their investigations end with rational explanations. Carolyn fears for the safety of her five daughters and pleads for the Warrens’ help. Ed reluctantly agrees to give the Perron home a look. He doesn’t want Lorraine involved because of psychological trauma she suffered during a recent exorcism. “It’s what God put us here to do,” she tells her husband when they accept the new case.

If the home is in fact infested with a demonic presence, a cleansing will have to be performed. It’s a sort of exorcism of a place rather than a person. Ed is not approved by the Catholic Church to perform exorcisms, so the Warrens’ mission is to gather evidence of paranormal activity and present it to the Church. And, boy, do they gather some proof.

The elements for a terrifying film are all present: a cellar boarded up for no apparent reason, clocks that stop every night at 3:07 a.m., the Perron’s sleep-walking daughter, a creepy music box that reflects ghosts in its mirrored top, and a unique version of Hide & Seek that the Perron children like to play. Many films would take these intriguing ingredients, bring them to a rapid boil and let cinematic Hell break loose. James Wan chooses to put them on simmer, let the tension build and scare his audience for a solid ninety minutes.

Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga give subtle, believable performances that anchor the film and give it a sense of reality. They are a loving couple with a child of their own who help people in distress by stepping across the boundary between the real world and the paranormal and facing the consequences. As Carolyn Perron, Lili Taylor gives the stand-out performance of the film. I don’t want to play spoiler, so I’ll simply say that without her stellar work, The Conjuring could be in danger of collapsing like a house of cards.

Miles Davis once said, “It’s not the notes you play that are important. It’s the notes you don’t play.” James Wan understands this maxim, and he is fast becoming a master of pacing and atmosphere. He understands that what he’s NOT showing his audience is every bit as scary as what’s on screen. The anticipation is far more gut-wrenching than the actual reveal. Evidently, the MPAA agrees. Despite the fact there is no violence of consequence, no gore, no sexual situations, no nudity and minimal bad language, The Conjuring has been given an R-rating solely because it’s too terrifying for younger audiences. (Talk about a nice marketing hook for a horror film.)

If you are a movie renter or downloader, I heartily recommend that you open up your wallet a little farther and see The Conjuring on the big screen. Sitting in a large dark room with the thumps and bumps provided in surround sound, you’ll think you’re actually sitting in the haunted Perron house. At the screening I attended, there were audible screams from audience members, and between scares, you could hear a pin drop while everyone literally sat on the edge of their seats.

The Conjuring is a near-perfect horror film. The denouement becomes a bit cluttered as if James Wan couldn’t avoid providing a grand finale, and the film threatens to spin out of control, but never does. It’s the quiet scares and growing sense of dread that make this movie so frightening, and Wan adheres to that concept for ninety percent of the film. But, that’s a minor criticism of the best entry in the horror genre in years.

9 out of 10

Scott Phillips

The Movie Isle

Scott Phillips holds a degree in print journalism from the University of Georgia and is currently a member of the Georgia Film Critics Association (GAFCA). In addition to his role as a correspondent for Timed Edition, Scott serves as the Executive Editor and Senior Writer for From 2013 through 2017, he reviewed films for Along with his duties as a critic, Scott serves as the Content Programmer for the Way Down Film Festival held in Columbus, Georgia every fall.

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