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STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
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FILM DETAILS
Certificate
15
Cast
Vera Farmiga
Ron Livingston
Haley McFarland
Patrick Wilson
Lily Taylor
Joey King.
Directors
James Wan.
Screenwriters
Chad Hayes
Carey Hayes.
Running Time
112 minutes

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The Conjuring
Who ya gonna call?


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Plot
Roger and Carolyn Perron (Livingston, Taylor) move with their daughters to rural Rhode Island, where they are beset by terrifying phenomena. Psychic investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Wilson, Farmiga) agree to help, but find the haunting a test beyond anything they've experienced before.


Review
The Conjuring
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James Wan arrived on the horror scene in 2004 with the original Saw, but while the Jigsaw killer continued through six trap-happily tortuous sequels, Wan himself largely left gore behind in his own follow-up projects. Dead Silence channelled the ventriloquist dummy scares of the likes of Dead Of Night, The Twilight Zone and Magic, while Insidious riffed on the haunted house. But where the latter veered off into the loonier territory of further dimensions and string-puppet demons, The Conjuring is a more straight-ahead take on well-worn ghost story tropes. It’s at once eerily familiar and devastatingly effective. It would feel like Wan drawing a classy line under the horror phase of his career (he’s off to direct Fast & Furious 7 next) if Insidious: Chapter 2 were not due shortly afterwards.

 

“Based on a true story” (of course), The Conjuring involves real-life supernatural investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, who were involved in the Amityville saga (and were convinced it wasn’t a hoax). Like 1979’s The Amityville Horror and its many sequels, imitators and progenitors, Wan’s film sees a family (the Perrons; cry for them) moving into a new old home in which various historical traumas — child murders, witch trials — are manifesting as spooky phenomena. The Conjuring fills its exhausting run-time with a cauldron of stirred echoes from any number of its similarly-themed predecessors: a period 1970s setting; doors that open and close on their own; things under the bed; a dog that won’t enter the house; crawl spaces; a cellar; a doll; a music box; ghosts; possessions; exorcisms; secrets uncovered. Even the bird-strike set-piece has unfortunately already been seen this year, in the inferior Dark Skies (with which The Conjuring shares composer Joseph Bishara).



Yet rather than feeling stale, these ingredients in Wan’s hands combine into a classic, classical horror: you get the feeling that this must finally be the film Lili Taylor hoped Jan de Bont’s 1999 remake of The Haunting would be. Played absolutely straight, the performances are uniformly effective and affecting, whether from Taylor, Ron Livingston, Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson as the couples on either side of the spectral divide (Wilson is also in both Insidiouses — Insidii?), or Mackenzie Foy, Joey King, Hayley McFarland, Shanley Caswell and Kyla Deaver as the Perrons’ five beleaguered daughters. The supporting cast are strong too, down to the doll-bothered girlfriends who open the film with a largely unconnected prologue.

 

The Conjuring revels in great scares well placed: a witch on a wardrobe and a clapping game of hide-and-seek being particularly nerve-jangling examples. The paranormal activity here is about more than the occasional loud noise, however. It’s a cliché to call the house a character in the film, but suffice to say the production design is impeccable enough to render every nook and cranny both homely and dangerous. Regular Wan collaborator John R. Leonetti’s cinematography too is particularly worthy of mention, painting American Gothic textures on both interiors and exteriors, and rendering the difficult moments with a terrible beauty that only emphasises their ugliness. The slow reveal that there are different spirits with different agendas at work in the house is masterfully handled, and even the lurch into screaming exorcist territory feels like a natural crescendo rather than an onslaught of overwrought effects.

 


Verdict
A strong cast and an atmosphere of real dread mean that despite a catalogue of immediately recognisable ghost devices, The Conjuring amounts to more than the sum of its scary parts. If it's Wan's farewell to horror - Insidious: Chapter 2 notwithstanding - it's a darkly powerful final word.


Reviewed by Owen Williams

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for The Conjuring
Empire Star Rating

Nothing a lick of paint wouldn't put right...

Honestly, why are all of these places so utterly depressingly grubby/dirty looking? I'd be p*ssed off if Iived/died/haunted that dump. Oh, and i question the wisdom of two "world renowned" investigators keeping a room full of murderous supernatural entities- personified by the creepiest manifestations of our fears- across the hallway from where their 5 year old daughter sleeps. That's just f*cking dumb (it might actually be borderline child abuse-and that's whether you believe in this ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by kristof07 at 17:45, 14 January 2014 | Report This Post


RE: James Wan's Farewell To Horror

In The Conjuring, the scary casts out the spirit of the silly, permanently, and with a vengeance. ... More

Posted by chang at 10:12, 31 December 2013 | Report This Post


James Wan's Farewell To Horror

Despite a slow start and effortless ending, it is aboslutely thrilling, The Conjuring sees James Wan on top form. You'll find yourself gripping in suspense, gasping at the ambitous horror that this film successfully achieves in. Excellent preformances all around - Vera Farmiga excels. If you were a fan of Insidious then seeing this is a no brainer, it's soon to find itself becoming a cult classic. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Keegan Gess at 12:38, 19 December 2013 | Report This Post


James Wan's Farewell To Horror

Despite a slow start and effortless ending, it is aboslutely thrilling, The Conjuring sees James Wan on top form. You'll find yourself gripping in suspense, gasping at the ambitous horror that this film successfully achieves in. Excellent preformances all around - Vera Farmiga excels. If you were a fan of Insidious then seeing this is a no brainer, it's soon to find itself becoming a cult classic. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Keegan Gess at 12:38, 19 December 2013 | Report This Post


how did this get 4 stars?

When are we going to get a real decent horror? having to settle for films like this and insidious or paranormal activity is torture. Predictable through out the whole film, the thing is this does actually make horrors look good these days and it is still crap ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Stephenh28 at 15:45, 14 October 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Clever, yet predictable.

Best horror in years.As an avid horror fan,i'm sick of the Twilight type remakes doing the rounds. This was original,and uses bumps in the night and other cliches very well. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by CriticNumberOne at 09:48, 14 October 2013 | Report This Post


Clever, yet predictable.

I can’t make my mind up about this horror. On the one hand, I found some of the devices used very repetitive and therefore some of the film really seemed to drag for me. On the other hand, there were strong performances across the board, with Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga playing world renowned paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorraine Warren. But the story isn’t centred on the couple, but rather Carolyn and Roger Perron (Lili Taylor, Ron Livingston) and their five daughters. Whe... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Gem_1995 at 15:03, 10 October 2013 | Report This Post


It's not that it wasn't scary...

The acting overall was fairly good, especially from the second to youngest daughter. But so much of the film was totally unrelated. The hauntings at the beginning don't make sense to the overall conclusion but are used just to put in a few extra jumps. But I may be trying too hard to find a decent stroyline. It gave a nice amount of scares though and gave a really good atmosphere in the audience. I just wish they'd tidied up a couple of the plot holes. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by jenksuh at 14:47, 10 September 2013 | Report This Post


"There is something horrible happening in my house."

Although it relies heavily on old-school scares and is far from a pillar of originality, The Conjuring succeeds in sheer entertainment value. If there are cliché's, the filmmakers make no attempt at hiding them from us. Instead, they shamelessly doll out run-of-the-mill scares, revel in them and encourage us to do the same. So don't take it too terribly serious (despite the "Based On A True Story" claim)... this is one hell of a wicked fun horror movie. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by movienut707 at 07:04, 10 September 2013 | Report This Post


tp://www.imdb.com/title/tt1457767/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1]The Conjuringames Wan goes haunted house. The "based on a true story" Conjuring has quite some elements that we have seen an awefull lot before but you might expect them in a film like this: a big old house in the middle of nowhere, scary moments you can see coming from far away, doors that open and close themselves, hidden spaces, a frikkin` creepy doll and a scary music box. A whole bunch of cliché`s, but luckily it doesn`t work... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by TheGodfather at 22:15, 07 September 2013 | Report This Post


RE: "retro-vibe" sorta killed it for me

It borrows heavily from a lot of other films, similar to Oblivion, though i liked the latter far more. There were some nice touches in this film, such as one of the exorcists turning around upon hearing a straining rope and seeing seeing feet dangling behind her husband. Similarly there was the bit with the washing line - i genuinely loved that part as it hangs above her shoulder around a ghost, her reactions are great too. That said though I found most of the film a little boring. If you ... More

Posted by kumar at 18:32, 24 August 2013 | Report This Post


"retro-vibe" sorta killed it for me

Conjuring had seriously cool moments but also had very clunky scares. The tone taken by Wan to make it feel like an Amityville-type retro feel wasn't something he could do and do convincingly. Wan's movies are very good at giving the cold-bright-empty feel that comes with most neo-horror. Insidious was very much like this movie except modern and more warped, a tone Wan was much more comfortable using and in turn made a better movie. He uses trademark tone's well enough as revivals, but what's go... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by soggy bottom sam at 16:51, 11 August 2013 | Report This Post


RE: I enjoyed it and seemingly did the packed/scared cinema

One of the blurs for this film was "Before there was Amityville, there was Harrisville" plus also it like Amityville it is based on a true tale of a demonic haunting, which was maybe embellished by the writers of the books and then again by the script writers. But who cares I love a good haunted house story that delivers chills, and this one more than delivers. It is littered with haunted house clichés but they work big time, giving some of the best hair raising moments I have no... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by evil bill at 19:32, 08 August 2013 | Report This Post


I enjoyed it and seemingly did the packed/scared cinema

I hadnt been to the cinema in well over a year and really just needed something to do to entertain my new date. I thought we should watch the overly advertised "The Conjuring" We were to find out though that the hype was good because for me it was a breath of fresh air in supernatural horror. It didnt rely on the loud noises for its scares thankfully, there were a fair few visual scares I can assure you and im sure I wont spoil the film by saying witches on top of wardrobes will get al... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Richiefirefly at 18:40, 08 August 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Who Ya Gonna Call? Type casters!

First half was rather good. James Wan cherry picking from horror movies new and old. As others have said, nothing new but all very well done. Second half of the movie was less of a sucess for me, some good bits but doesn't have the same intensity of the first half. also I'm guessing the second half veers way off from the "based on a true story " stuff. All in all a good solid old fasioned horror....even has a spooky celler. ... More

Posted by blackduck at 16:58, 06 August 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Who Ya Gonna Call? Type casters!

I loved it; a benchmark in modern horror. Stylized, atmospheric and masterfully-handled. I sincerely hope James Wan doesn’t abandon the genre completely because at the moment he seems to be one of the very few people who knows how to do it properly. Heart-pumping, tense, sinister and genuinely frightening, The Conjuring is the 2013 horror film to beat. Take a bow, Mr. Wan. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Whistler at 17:19, 05 August 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Who Ya Gonna Call? Type casters!

Great cast and a decent horror director so think I might give this a go. ... More

Posted by ElephantBoy at 14:28, 05 August 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Who Ya Gonna Call? Type casters!

I'm a complete wimp when it comes to modern horror movies, so naturally I spent half the film with my eyes closed. Very entertaining movie, although I kinda wish the whole thing was filmed in that "Documented footage" style in one scene, that was creepy. ... More

Posted by Hood_Man at 00:27, 05 August 2013 | Report This Post


Who Ya Gonna Call? Type casters!

Ron Livingstone just looked liked he was about to laugh in every scene like somebody had just smashed a plate! (In another room btw). The other actors were just playing to type but did a pretty good job considering(call to your agents perhaps?)The young actors playing the kids were very good though. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by arronskie at 03:59, 04 August 2013 | Report This Post


not <that> great/scary

perfectly serviceable horror stuff. Rather good fun, but not really that scary. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by tysmuse at 02:08, 04 August 2013 | Report This Post


You've seen these tricke before.

The film draws from the well of recent horror movies as deeply as it does from 'the old staples', but seems to add nothing of its own. It's not a "bad" horror movie, but it's so on-par with everything else that's being released these days that it's robbed of the very thing it needs to succeed: horror. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by TheMightyBlackout at 23:45, 03 August 2013 | Report This Post


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