The Conjuring: movie review

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So much is thrown at us by today’s hyperventilating horror that stillness has become the scariest move. Actually, that’s always been the case, but it takes a retro-fashioned winner like The Conjuring to remind us that if the creaky, old house ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Styled like a forgotten Nixon-era classic and set in the autumn of 1971, James Wan’s latest sheds all traces of Cabin in the Woods snark: no cell phones, natch, but no sarcasm either, as based-on-real-life heroes Lorraine and Ed Warren (Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson), a married pair of self-described demonologists, deliver a college lecture about possession to a respectful class of longhairs. (Even they haven’t seen The Exorcist yet.)

A famous case in Amityville is still a while off for the Warrens when they’re approached by Carolyn (Lili Taylor), mother of five girls, who begs for some paranormal assistance: It seems her family’s rural home, recently occupied, is yielding far too many bumps in the night for the typical fixer-upper. You know the setup from Poltergeist, but this film’s commitment to drawn-out shivers feels almost radical: Children’s games of “hide and clap” yield unwelcome participants; a spooky jack-in-the-box found on a dusty shelf springs the unexplainable. Wan cut his teeth on the first Saw and 2010’s half-realized Insidious, but he’s clearly been hiding an inner Val Lewton, attuned to lingering pauses. And like the wood-grained farmhouse itself—a beautiful piece of production design by Julie Berghoff—The Conjuring has an analog solidity that makes the terror to come almost unbearable.

Follow Joshua Rothkopf on Twitter: @joshrothkopf

Release details

Rated: R
Duration: 112 mins

Cast and crew

Director: James Wan
Screenwriter: Chad Hayes, Carey Hayes
Cast: Vera Farmiga
Patrick Wilson
Lili Taylor
Ron Livingston

Average User Rating

5 / 5

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One of my favorite horror films of all the time, and also much better than The Exorcist and Grave Encounters!


Fantastic Film. Well created piece of technological marval based on true events...I loved it. I want to be an exorcist! Thank Jesus!


Everything a scary movie should be! Plus it was based on a true story.


If ever there was a paranormal movie buff, well there wouldn't be if it wasn't me. I spend money after money waiting for that one day I will feel like I did the day I saw The Exorcist, and since I was a kid well that hasn't happened..until 12:01 July 19th. The Conjuring was mind blowingly jumpy, scary, errie, creepy, and so close to truly being truthful. Raised as a Pastor's kid and my father doing exorcisms since I could remember, well this reminded me of the few stories that he would not be open to share; after begging my Father he would say "no, you won't be able to sleep again for days". This is The Conjuring.