Carolyn recruits the help of a renowned paranormal investigating team, husband and wife Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga). Lorraine is a clairvoyant who immediately senses something evil. Ed, a demonologist, wants to have the home exorcised, but first they have to capture evidence to convince a priest to perform the ritual. The Warrens move in with the Perrons and set up a host of recording equipment, but the more they antagonize the presence, the more they put both families in danger.
The End Result
The script, from brothers Chad and Carey Hayes (House of Wax, The Reaping, Whiteout), is wonderfully paced, prepping us for the ghostly realm by opening with a more fun, but still creepy B-story about a haunted doll. The story knows how to get under your skin by setting up scenarios -- like the game of blindfolded hide and seek -- that make you wring your hands in angsty expectancy. Combined with Wan's penchant for framing scares, The Conjuring is almost too terrifying to bear at times, even if the the anticipation sometimes ends up being more frightening than the eventual reveal.
Compared to Insidious, the scares are perhaps not quite as memorable, but the story -- maybe because it was based on reality -- feels more heartfelt, particularly during the emotional climax. Joseph Bishara, who contributed the shrieking musical score for Insidious, returns with a similarly jarring score keeps you on edge. (Fun fact: he also plays the villainous entity in The Conjuring.) Personally, I think Insidious is a slightly more harrowing experience overall, but the difference in quality is negligible. You can't go wrong with either journey into the frightful beyond.
- Acting: B (Strong performances across the board, with emotional opportunities for both families.)
- Direction: A- (Wan delivers the atmospheric sundae with the scream-worthy cherry on top.)
- Script: B (Full of terrifying alone-in-the-dark moments; solid character development but doesn't get bogged down in it.)
- Gore/Effects: B- (Minimal gore despite an R rating; good old-fashioned makeup effects and character design)
- Overall: B (A spine-chilling old school ghost story.)