The Conjuring DVD Review

Pay attention horror fans, James Wan is back. The man who gave us Saw (2004) (fortunately he is not tainted with the latter instalments, he stopped writing/directing them after the third) and Insidious (2010) has returned with his latest offering, The Conjuring and it is certainly up to his previously high standards. This is a man who truly loves the genre and makes sure he spells that out in bold, right from the beginning. Wan includes classic horror references from the get go whilst not being afraid to keep his film placed firmly in the more modern possession horror style. The Conjuring is a work of art as well as film which will have you cowering behind a pillow. It takes a special talent to combine these two factors but Wan, armed with a surprisingly good script written by Chad and Carey Hayes, is just the man for the job.

The Conjuring is based on the true story of Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga), noted paranormal investigators and demonologists, who take on their most difficult case yet. Roger (Ron Livingston) and Carolyn Perron (Lili Taylor) and their young family of five girls have recently moved into an old abandoned house in the countryside, which of course is quite seriously haunted. The unfortunate Perron’s have stumbled across a foreboding property, the previous owner being one of the witches of Salem who subsequently cursed anyone who attempts to live on her land. Ed and his clairvoyant wife must use their expertise to prevent the demon from harming the Perron’s as well as their own family.

To create an overarching sense of dread throughout a horror movie is a difficult task. As seen with possession films such as the Paranormal Activity series there are many moments where explanatory dialogue is needed which takes the edge of any heightened emotions the audience may be feeling. It is not so with The Conjuring. Wan creates a dark and hopeless visage that relentlessly feeds the imagination, every moment is laced with terror but don’t for think for one second the film is not filled with jump scares, make sure your seat is comfortable for those.

The film is not a convoluted piece of work nor is it trite. Things that go bump in the night, the bogeyman hiding in a cupboard, haunted cellars and things hiding under the bed are familiar concepts but Wan employs them with his bewitching flair to create terrifying scenes. Watching during the day time won’t help when confronted with Wan’s conception of a dark figure in the corner of a room. There are visual references throughout the film, most notably camerawork akin to Nicholas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now as well as a blatant homage to Hitchcock’s The Birds. Wan is a talented and playful director and although his reverence for the past is clear, his work is unmistakably his own.

Chad and Carey Hayes script is far from groundbreaking but it dispenses with the heavy explanation and keeps the exchanges short and to the point. There are inferences of what is to come sprinkled throughout the dialogue and although there are a couple of schmaltzy conversations between Ed and Lorraine these are forgiven easily. The Conjuring is immediately horrifying with serious overtones but the writers keep the dialogue with tongues firmly planted in cheeks to not overextend the genre. This gives the actors more freedom to develop their characters. With such a tight script Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson have room to flex their acting muscles a bit and Lili Taylor gets to shock as a woman possessed, as vile and haunting as Linda Blair in The Exorcist.

All these comparisons and high praise could easily go to Wan’s head but in certain cases it is just simply deserved. The Conjuring is perhaps his most full vision yet and displays a talent that is now more than mere promise but accomplishment. Wan draws occasionally from the otherworldly look and sound of Dario Argento’s best work, sometimes full of colour and echoing music, this influence punctuates Wan’s world of colourless misery perfectly. He is adept at injecting his work with electric moments and unforgettable villains, even managing to create a doll character creepier than Chucky, Wan doesn’t just borrow from influences, occasionally this masterfully gifted man refines them.

The Conjuring is available on DVD from December 9th courtesy of Substance

About The Author

Jonathan went back to university to study Film Journalism in Glasgow in 2012 and hasn't looked back since. Writing for the Edinburgh Internation Film Festival, The Birmingham Review, The Electrolyte Magazine as well as Front Row Reviews he enjoys working across media and if not lambasting folk about politics it's film on his agenda. Working in The Electric Cinema in Birmingham has allowed him to come closer to the medium he loves, his favourite filmmaker is Wong Kar-Wai.

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