Combustible Celluloid
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With: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Lili Taylor, Ron Livingston, Shanley Caswell, Hayley McFarland, Joey King, Mackenzie Foy, Kyla Deaver, Shannon Kook, John Brotherton, Sterling Jerins, Marion Guyot, Morganna Bridgers, Amy Tipton
Written by: Chad Hayes, Carey Hayes
Directed by: James Wan
MPAA Rating: R for sequences of disturbing violence and terror
Running Time: 112
Date: 07/18/2013

The Conjuring (2013)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Most Haunted

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Best known for co-creating Saw, expert horror director James Wan has happily advanced into more sophisticated tales with Insidious and now The Conjuring. Rather than gore, Wan goes for a more old-fashioned, character-based movie here, and as a result, a treasure trove of typical haunting tricks seems fresh and terrifying once again. What's more, he plays with the "based on a true story" motif in interesting ways. Rather than remaining stuck on facts, he uses the story in more metaphysical ways, suggesting that both demons (and angels) could actually exist.

In the early 1970s, the Perron family -- Roger (Ron Livingston), Carolyn (Lili Taylor), and their five daughters -- move into a new home in the Rhode Island countryside. Before long, they start to encounter strange noises and smells, stopping clocks, slamming doors, and strange figures lurking in dark corners. So the Perrons approach paranormal investigators Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) and Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson) for help. The Warrens believe a demon is causing the trouble, and when Carolyn becomes possessed, they must get approval from the church for an exorcism. Unfortunately, Lorraine's clairvoyant abilities have taken quite a toll on her physical strength, and Ed worries that she may not survive their latest adventure.

The movie's inspired soundtrack score is key: it's a collection of edgy, discordant tones that works beautifully with the images. Wan's choice of actors also adds a level of class. Lili Taylor and Vera Farmiga in particular are two of our finest actresses, and they bring an intense sense of empathy to the screen. Patrick Wilson matches them, and indeed a series of true-story horror movies on the Warrens would be most welcome.

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