Taking top prize at the box office this weekend was a horror film based on a true story about demonic possession. The Conjuring took home $41.5M this weekend, and it’s obvious why. This movie is scary. And it scares with moderate violence, little gore, I don’t recall any profanity, and no sexual themes or nudity. It’s impressive that this film manages to be so terrifying without these staples of contemporary horror. That said - this movie is R for a damn good reason. Do NOT let your children watch this unless you’re prepared to have them crawl in bed with you through high school and can afford some serious therapy…for yourself. Just kidding, you’ll be fine. I promise ;)
The Conjuring, set in 1971, first introduces us to Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga), real life paranormal investigators from Connecticut who are at the top of their field. Concurrently we meet the adorable Perron family, a mom (Lili Taylor), dad (Ron Livingston), and 5 girls ranging from high school age, to 4-5 years old, as they are moving into their new home in Harrisville, Rhode Island.
Mrs. Perron desperately seeks the help of Ed and Lorraine Warren who are able to determine that this is not a haunting as they originally thought, but a demonic force that has latched onto the family. They will need an exorcism, but as the Vatican requires proof, the Warrens and Perrons must document their case.
When the disturbances become violent, the Warrens determine they may not have much time before someone dies. Ed is forced to perform the exorcism himself during the dramatic climax of the film when we learn where this demonic presence came from and what it wants.
Casting was also very well done. Too often we see horror films with no-name actors whose craft isn’t quite developed yet. This film cast actors that not only played their roles well but are quickly becoming horror-specific actors. Lili Taylor stars in the beautifully-crafted Netflix series Hemlock Grove, Patrick Wilson is known for his work in Insidious and Hard Candy, and the magnificent Vera Farmiga plays Norma Bates on the A&E series Bates Motel. It was a bit of a surprise to see Ron Livingston, known for films like Office Space and Swingers, but he was believable enough as Roger Perron that I couldn’t place him until after the film.
My one complaint (aside from small bits of dialogue I thought sounded contrived) was The Conjuring doesn’t make any bold statements. There’s no greater commentary on our society, sexuality, or even the government. It’s simply a ghost story, but a really good one.
In all, it was refreshing to see a horror film of such high quality. The story and film itself were incredibly well crafted, the sets and costumes were on-point, and the actors were great. The Conjuring marks a huge step forward for the genre of horror and I hope to see more quality horror films like this.
Sweet Dreams ;)