THE CONJURING (director: James Wan; screenwriters: Chad Hayes/Carey Hayes; cinematographer: John R. Leonetti; editor:  Kirk Morri; music:  Joseph Bishara; cast: Vera Farmiga (Lorraine Warren), Patrick Wilson (Ed Warren), Ron Livingston (Roger Perron), Lili Taylor (Carolyn Perron), Sterling Jerens (Judy Warren), Steve Coulter (Father Gordon), John Brotherton (Cop, Brad), Shannon Kook) (investigative assistant,Drew); Runtime: 112; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Tony DeRosa-Grund/Peter Safran/Rob Cowan; Warner Bros.; 2013)

"Its climax reminds one of The Exorcist."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Malyasian-born director James Wan ("Saw"/"Dead Silence"/"Death Sentence") has another go at making a haunted house paranormal pic that's not a splat pic and succeeds in bringing about a fair amount of old-school chills in this B-film without resorting to bloody gore. Sibling writers Carey and Chad Hayes effectively build the tension until its climax reminds one of The Exorcist. It's based on the true experiences of the selfless and intrepid Monroe, Connecticut, residing paranormal investigator Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson) and his clairvoyant wife Lorraine (Vera Farmiga), who help those in deep trouble over their possessed houses. These practicing Catholics are eccentric but respected demonologists, who have devoted their life to fighting evil. The couple also worked the latter, more well-known, Amityville Horror case. Though true it still seems as if the pic has used a host of other Hollywood eerie ghost stories to get across its scary moments. Wan, to his credit, treats the tale about a house possessed by demons and one that only can be cleansed by a religious exorcism, with utmost seriousness.

Roger (Ron Livingston) and Carolyn Perron (Lili Taylor) move with their five young daughters, the oldest is a high school student and the youngest a pre-schooler, into a secluded lakeside farmhouse in Harrisville, R.I., in the fall of 1971, and immediately discover that the idyllic bargain house they bought through foreclosure from the bank without knowing its historical connections to the Salem Witch Trials is haunted. The early demonic manifestations include their pet dog mutilated, a locked cellar filled with frightening junk, a coldness that can't be removed from the house, strange smells, clocks stopping during the night, thumping sounds, doors opening and closing on their own, the girls unable to sleep without feeling someone else was present in the room, and there are mysterious dark bruises appearing on Carolyn’s body.

Ed and Lorraine are called to investigate the Perron house and when they realize it's possessed, temporarily move in with the Perrons to investigate further and offer support.  Learning about the house’s chilling history that includes witchcraft, suicide and satanic ritual murder, the couple, along with an investigative assistant (Shannon Kook) and a skeptical cop (John Brotherton), use tape recorders and cameras to bring evidence to get the Catholic Church to sanction an exorcism. The Warrens believe the Perron family is in grave danger and must rid themselves of the possession or face deadly consequences.

It turns into a battle of Evil vs. Good pic, and provides enough creaky noises and supernatural scares to be a throwback film to those kind of enjoyable horror pics in the 1970s. Wan has said he intended to make a “classic studio horror film,” and he certainly accomplished that.

REVIEWED ON 7/19/2013       GRADE: B-

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"