Review: The Conjuring (2013)

The Conjuring (dir. James Wan, 2013) – Threatened by a dark presence, The Perrons seek help from paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, who find themselves facing their most menacing case yet.


In his latest scare design, director James Wan nails tension with effective precision as horror fans echo in unison, “Please don’t leave us.”


The Warrens came, they saw, they kicked its ass – or at least that is what they claim. No matter if you believe in the stories of Ed and Lorraine Warren, there is no question that they would be fantastic material for a compelling horror film.

Director James Wan takes that potential and turns it into a barrage of some earnest scares. The Conjuring is his second venture into the haunted house genre, this time without his partner-in-crime Leigh Whannel.

Think Saw, and one is likely to recall severed limbs. But in the first Saw movie, it is the outstanding suspense that makes an impact, rather than the assorted gore. Dead Silence tinges with this masterful tension and Insidious refines it. The Conjuring almost perfects it, reviving a genre that has been done to death with old-school throwbacks.

The Conjuring
Credit: New Line Cinema / Michael Tackett

While James Wan wholeheartedly embraces horror roots, he brings his own signature into the game. The premise tells the same old story. But his genuine understanding of what works in horror feels refreshing.

No amount of blood and carnage can measure up to well-crafted genuine scares that withstand the test of time. Most of it is owed to tremendous sound design work and brilliant timing. Upon each clap and note, the hide-and-seek games and mirrored music box make nerves tingle with awareness. Building up from soft chants to violent shrills, Joseph Bishara’s score makes for the perfect companion.

The Conjuring
Credit: New Line Cinema / Michael Tackett

With an eerie grin that crawls under our skin, antique doll Annabelle makes a deep lasting impression. Not once does the creepy atmosphere becalm even in her absence. Sudden movements startle when we least expect them. Set in the right place at the right time, jump scares finally escape their bad reputation.

Such pure menace lies in the haunting spirits, that we easily find sympathy in the haunted. That is even if the Perron family lack memorable personalities. In the grand finale, eventual comeuppance slackens in pace as those familiar with exorcism rites will see what is to come. Still, the consecutive thrills before then make for one of few genuine chillers in recent years.


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