The Conjuring is a 2013 horror flick directed by James Wan (Saw) and starring Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Rob Livingston, Lily Taylor, Shanley Casewell, Hayley McFarland (no relation), Joey King, Mackenzie Foy, and Kyla Deaver.
The movie concerns the Perron family; they've bought an old farmhouse in Rhode Island, but immediately upon moving in, they start having problems. They smell rotting meat in various places, they see things, weird noises, clocks stop every night at the same time, and Carolyn, the mother of the family (Taylor) starts developing strange bruises. After things get so terrifying that the family (Carolyn, her husband Roger (Livingston) and their five daughters (Casewell, McFarland, King, Foy, and Deaver)) start all sleeping in the living room, they call in SAVE.
Wait, no, not really. They actually make contact with Ed and Lorraine Warren (Wilson and Farmiga, respectively), who are professional demonologists and paranormal investigators. They roll up, do a very professional investigation, and wind up performing an exorcism on Carolyn just before she's about to kill one of her daughters. Bam!
Now, there's actually a lot more to this, plot-wise. Into this mix, we also have the Warrens' daughter, Judy (Sterling Jerins), being targeted by a demon - maybe the same one living in the creepy-ass Annabelle doll (which would become the focus of a spin-off)? Likewise, the demon possessing Carolyn isn't the only thing in the house; the demon's been killing people for decades, so there are a bunch of ghosts (whom, it's implied, all go away after the demon is banished). Also, Lorraine is dealing with fallout from a previous exorcism, and her husband wants her kept away from them because he's afraid for her sanity and/or soul.
Let's talk about the good, first. This movie is really effectively shot. It's not found footage, so the camera work is steady, but you have to watch the corners of the frame and behind the characters. Horrible shit shows up in shadows and in corners and in mirrors, and it doesn't stay long. The sound, likewise, is really effectively used, and I wish I'd seen this in theaters to get the effect. The house is a character unto itself, and you see characters running all over the place tripping over each other trying to get into different rooms.
The performances, likewise, are really good, particularly from Livingston and Taylor and the actresses playing their daughters. Livingston plays a man who's out of his depth and knows it, but doesn't go all alpha male when another dude shows up to help him. Taylor goes from sweet, loving, and terrified to full-out possessed and vicious, and that's fun to watch. The girls each establish themselves (which is crucial, because otherwise they'd read as very samey), and bring across the terror of having their home invaded but having nowhere to go.
Now, the bad news: These are all real people. These events "happened." The Warrens are actually demon-hunters (well, they were; Ed died in 2006), and Lorraine obviously had some input into this film because some of the elements they include are jumbled and just make things confused. The movie spends entirely too much time on the Warrens and paints them as martyrs in a war between god and Satan, and as the film goes on it becomes less about the Perrons and more about the Warrens (the demon even follows the Warrens home and goes after their daughter, but then the demon in the Annabelle doll gets involved, which never goes anywhere). The scripting feels like someone who had creative control wanted very specific events played out, without considering that they don't really make for a tight movie.
And then there's the "based on real events" thing. Obviously, the Perrons and the Warrens are real, and clearly, something happened up in Rhode Island. However, a quick look over the Warrens' wiki page casts a lot of doubt on their claims (which are obviously false, since demons, god, and ghosts do not exist), and banging on the "THIS IS TOTES REAL" drum so hard actually makes for a weaker horror movie, at least for a skeptic (I had the same problem with Deliver Us From Evil, in fact; effective horror movie, but stop telling me it really happened).
Anyway, that's ultimately a minor quibble, because I liked the movie, and I want to see the sequel. Plus, it's a Chill movie, and those are kind of rare.
My grade: A-
Rewatch value: Medium. GET IT?
Next up: A Good Day to Die Hard