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.
Meanwhile, the cast members play it without irony. Wilson and Farmiga bring the Warrens to life without ever hamming it up, which helps us suspend our disbelief in the freaky goings-on around them. Taylor gets the more colourful role as the frazzled wife and mother who gets hot and bothered by the angry demon. But it's the smaller touches that get under our skin. Even if there's nothing remotely original here, it's great to see a film that takes the time to crank up the terror properly. It may be too cliched to be genuinely terrifying, but it's a rare film that has the ability to really chill us to the bone.
Run time: 112 mins
In Theaters: Friday 19th July 2013
Box Office USA: $137.4M
Box Office Worldwide: $318M
Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures
Production compaines: New Line Cinema, The Safran Company, Warner Bros. Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 86%
Fresh: 168 Rotten: 28
IMDB: 7.5 / 10
Director: James Wan
Screenwriter: Chad Hayes, Carey W. Hayes
Starring: Patrick Wilson as Ed Warren, Vera Farmiga as Lorraine Warren, Lili Taylor as Carolyn Perron, Ron Livingston as Roger Perron, Hayley McFarland as Nancy, Mackenzie Foy as Cindy, Joey King as Christine Perron, Shanley Caswell as Andrea Perron, Shannon Kook-Chun as Drew Thomas, Kyla Deaver as April, Sterling Jerins as Judy Warren, Marion Guyot as Georgiana, Morganna Bridgers as Debbie, Amy Tipton as Camilla, John Brotherton as Brad
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