Old-style filmmaking makes this movie scarier than other recent horror films, simply because director Wan (Saw/Insidious) takes the time to actually develop suspense. By not using cheap trickery, he continually sends chills up our spine. So it's a shame that the story isn't more original, merely pasting together every haunted house cliche imaginable into what's apparently based on real events, but is clearly fictionalised.
Real-life ghostbusters Ed and Lorraine Warren (Wilson and Farmiga) investigated a series of hauntings, possessions and other supernatural events over their career. Their most famous case is Amityville, while this story has apparently only recently been released. It involves the Perron family, which experiences all kinds of strange phenomena when they move into a Rhode Island house in 1971. Carolyn (Taylor) starts having freaky nightmares accompanied by nasty bruising, while Roger (Livingston) struggles to cope with the odd behaviour of their five daughters (Caswell, McFarland, King, Foy and Deaver). As the Warrens determine that this is a case of demonic possession, things get even crazier.
The plot is set out as a fairly straightforward investigation, as the Warrens try to get proof of possession so they can call in a priest. Filmmaker Wan uses this to lure us into a false sense of security, quietly taking us through long scenes in which nothing much happens before gently turning the screws then shocking us with something intensely creepy. Some of this is rather obvious (like a nasty-looking doll or an evil-sounding music box), but it's such sure-handed filmmaking that it can't help but make us squirm in our seats.
Continue reading: The Conjuring Review