The Conjuring | 4/5
SINGAPORE — A massive box office hit in the United States thanks to great word-of-mouth publicity, it’s now being described as one of the scariest movies ever made — a reputation usually reserved for classics like The Exorcist, Alien, Pyscho and Poltergeist.
So does The Conjuring really live up to the hype? That would be scream-worthy, nightmarish yes.
It’s the early 1970s and real-life paranormal investigators (or demonologists, as they are also known) Ed and Lorraine Warren (played by the excellent Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) are called upon to help out the Perron family — Ma (Lily Taylor), Pa (Ron Livingston) and their five daughters — who find themselves terrorised by a dark presence in their newly purchased old farmhouse.
Reportedly based on a true story, it’s considered one of the most frightening and baffling cases taken on by the Warrens, who are best known for their involvement in the controversial real life Amityville haunting case (the basis of 10 subsequent films).
So what’s the big deal about yet another “based on a true story” haunted house yarn dealing with exorcism and the demonic supernatural?
Well, in a world of CGI and other cheap tricks, The Conjuring is a welcome surprise, with its dedication to the good old simple shock factor.
Simplicity works perfectly in this terror tale simply because it goes back to basics and aims squarely at your most primal fears. Things that go bump in the night, mirrors, lighting, sudden jolts, creaking doors, unexplained bruises, scary soundtrack, terrified screaming children — all the expected horror movie tropes are right here and ready to scare the bejebus out of you.
Admittedly, director James Wan, who gave us Saw and Insidious, does not bring any original scares to the table. But he’s extremely good at re-conjuring up some of the tried and tested ones. Australian-born and of Malaysian Chinese descent, the director’s Asian horror sensibilities are out in full force and used to its greatest advantage. A great horror film is one that plays on your imagination and lingers even after you’ve long left the cinema, and The Conjuring is that kind of a movie.
Thanks to its largely underrated but great cast of actors, and Wan’s restrained direction and refusal to condescend to today’s effects-savvy audience, this will undoubtedly be one of the most frightening films you’ll see this year.