The Conjuring summons intelligent camera trickery to produce one of the best horrors of the decade. James Wan is an innovator when it comes to crafting horror pictures. He cemented his technical capabilities with 'Saw' and perfected his invigorating essence for the supernatural in 'Insidious'. The Conjuring is a culmination of his previous work, including 'Dead Silence', and an absolute masterclass in horror filmmaking that, to my mind, does not get enough acclaim. It spawned a "Conjuring Cinematic Universe" and paved the way for future, albeit low quality, spiritual imitations from rising talents within the industry. It tells the story of Ed and Lorraine Warren, real-life paranormal investigators, depicting one of their lesser known cases involving the Perron family and the ominous hauntings in their new house.
On the surface, it resembles a standard supernatural mystery involving the recruitment of religious individuals to save a family from turmoil, concluding in an exorcism of some kind and cleansing the afflicted's soul from demonic possession. The Hayes' screenplay does not stray too far away from that formula, but offers some deeper character development along the way, particularly the Warrens and the matriarch of the Perrons. Mostly concerning parenthood and the need to protect children from external influences, the wretched Annabelle doll acting as a conduit for this symbol. However, that is not what sets The Conjuring apart from the competition.
What differentiates this, or I should say who, is James Wan. The talent this man upholds is relentless, no exaggeration. Goosebumps appearing on your arms or hairs on the back of your neck standing up is all because of his expert ability to craft horror. The way he manoeuvres the camera, whether it be a slow tilt up to the top of a wardrobe where a demonic woman precariously perches, or long arduous takes prowling the dark hallways switching between POV and over-the-shoulder shots, he immediately creates suspense. Silenced music, ghostly whispers and dimmed lighting. All of these technical aspects, from the eerie sound effects to the incredibly detailed production design, result in pure palpable tension. Unknowingly you start sweating, nervously waiting to see what Wan has in store for you. A horrific game of "hide and clap". A hellish doll writing notes. Or perhaps the chaotic exorcism that will render you speechless as furniture is flying from every direction.
Jump scares are present, but they are warranted. Not because they are unexpected, but because they executed correctly. Most of the horror comes from the suspense and invigorating mystery that the Warrens find themselves in. Speaking of the Warrens, Wilson and Farmiga were just delightful. Able to bring out heart stopping emotion when strengthening their relationship and correctly reacting to scenes of terror. Taylor was also excellent, even when screaming "Rogerrrrr!" about twenty times. The daughters were all decent also, despite not having a huge amount of screen time shared between them all.
I mean, what else can I say? The Conjuring, for me, is the pinnacle of modern mainstream horror. It follows a formula, modernises it using innovative techniques and a captivating story, and delivers fully on the scares. James Wan is the current master of horror, and this film is the perfect showcase of his talents. I've seen it a good fifteen times, and so many scenes still frighten the life out of me...