The Conjuring (James Wan, 2013)

While not sustaining an entirely perfect track record prior, James Wan at least proved with 2010’s Insidious that gratuitous bloodshed need not be a staple within what we identify as horror these days. Priding itself on an assured atmosphere rife with Wan’s soon-to-be signature aesthetic, the film’s slow-burning sensibilities, startling imagery and frequent ability to terrify transformed it into one of the more oft-discussed entries into a previously waning genre. The Conjuring reaffirms Wan’s semi-up-and-comer status, the true story of paranormal researchers Ed and Lorraine Warren’s most baffling, moreover malevolent case study recreated with admirable and unrelenting poise.

Judging by the location and state of the home the titular Perron family moves into, The Conjuring wastes no time in coming off as a typical haunted house venture, the all-too-familiar string of unexplained happenings varying and increasing in intensity as time progresses. An inexplicably freezing patch of air here, a foot tug there – it’s all a bit familiar but effective amid surprisingly deft chunks of characterization, transforming the production into something more than a hollow portrait of a tortured family. You really get a feel for who these individuals are, the goodness in their hearts and the genuine terror they feel during unprecedented encounters with Satan’s lackeys, the Warrens all the while employing their expertise in the field to alternately engross and explain away any and all vapid gaps in horror film logic.

Expected build up aside, when The Conjuring gets down to business, it does so in a manner so unsettling that dwelling on its key latter-half sequences does nothing but make me paranoid before bedtime. Wan’s employment of various presentation-centric techniques serves only to build tension, the film’s technical prowess matching and complimenting its nightmare-inducing reputation. Between the aesthetically pleasing and the script’s convincing demonic possession logistics, The Conjuring is just as adept as the droves of positive critical reception have suggested.

In summary, The Conjuring is just plain smart and unpredictably emotionally stirring. Instead of rooting against a lamebrained family that’s nothing more than a string of hopeless faces and names, the film personifies these individuals and their saviors so admirably that one can’t help but hope for the absolute best – even despite the worsening assault dealt by the Perrons’ clingy, vindictive otherwordly torturer. Tense, horrifying as such and nearly poetic as far as contemporary horror goes, solid performances and likable characters round out a more than serviceable genre effort that thoroughly entertains in light of my distaste for the spooky stuff.

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