Creepy, drenched with dread, unexpectedly moving, and almost unrelenting in its suspense, The Conjuring is the first memorable horror film of 2013.
Loosely based on the case files of Ed and Lorraine Warren (played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga), renowned demonologists of the 1960s and 70s, The Conjuring eschews the wink-wink nature of horror-comedies such as Shaun of the Dead and Drag Me to Hell and the meta-commentary of last year’s horror victor The Cabin in the Woods to embrace a creak-and-shriek scarefest of slamming doors and well-placed reveals.
Director James Wan, known for launching the torture-porn subgenre with Saw and then devolving into awful territory for Death Sentence before partially picking himself off the ground with Insidious, utilizes swooping, acrobatic camerawork that careens and spins around the haunted farmhouse and the various unsettling occurrences. The story incorporates some wonderful moments of bonding between mothers to underscore a particularly impacting final crescendo of terror.
If it is saddled with several obvious tricks, some rote dialogue, and a few narrative cliches (the skeptical police officer won over when confronted by the reality of the supernatural), and the ending sorely misses the gut-punch bleakness of instant-classic The Descent, The Conjuring is still a fine piece of horror filmmaking.