Horror review: The Conjuring

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ORIGINALLY POSTED ON STRAIGHT.COM, JULY 18, 2013

Aiming to impress horror freaks, the poster for The Conjuring boasts “from the director of Saw and Insidious”, which was a much wiser choice than “from the writers of The Reaping”. But the fact remains that the team of director James Wan and scripters Chad and Carey Hayes comes up short with this demonic-possession flick that is scary at times but basically uncalled-for.

It starts off well with a creepy prologue featuring a possessed doll ugly enough to keep even a randy Chucky at bay. These early scenes introduce the work of so-called real-life American demonologists Lorraine and Ed Warren (Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson), noted for their involvement with the famous Amityville case.

Flashing forward to the early ’70s, we see a happy family of seven, the Perrons, moving into a big, old secluded house in Rhode Island, which their freaked-out dog refuses to enter. The place is stinky and freezing in spots, the clocks all stop at 3:07 a.m., and something unseen grabs at the kids’ feet in bed. (Cue uninspired nods to the Paranormal Activity films and the recent Mama.)

When the frightening occurrences escalate in intensity, the Perrons seek help from the Warrens, who arrive with two helpers and an arsenal of state-of-the-art recording devices. Clairvoyant Lorraine picks up on the demonic vibe as soon as she steps through the door. “She possesses the mother to kill the child!” she declares at least a couple of times.

That mother is played by Lili Taylor, who is no stranger to haunted-house flicks, having starred in the disappointing 1999 remake of Robert Wise’s 1963 spine tingler The Haunting. Taylor gamely puts on her best Linda Blair face, but by the time the film’s pivotal exorcism scene has run its over-the-top course, you’ll surely question the aforementioned poster’s claim that it’s “based on the true case files of the Warrens”.

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