Grade: A-

Directed by James Wan
Starring: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Lili Taylor

Horror films have gotten a tough break lately with lazy directors, lackluster scripts, and mind-numbing plots. When said horror films are R rated, that usually means they are equipped with nudity, language, gore, and usually on unnecessary levels. James Wan, who directed modern horror classic Saw (not the crappy and countless sequels), brings a refreshing turn in horror films with The Conjuring, where its R rating is based solely on the scares. Atmospheric and haunting, the film boasts a clever twist on a familiar story and top notch performances.

Based on true events, The Conjuring tells of Ed and Lorraine Warren's most frightening paranormal experience. The Warrens are known for their work as demonologists and paranormal experts, as seen in their work on other pop culture phenomenon like the Amityville, NY case, which led to the classic The Amityville Horror. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga star as the Warrens and bring a sense of realness to a couple who have been mocked over the years. After speaking at a Massachusetts university, the Warrens meet Carolyn Perron (the fantastic Lili Taylor), a mother who is concerned with events occurring in her home. Foul smells. Strange noises. Bruises appearing from nothing. Ghostly sightings. Though reluctant, the Warrens visit the Perron home, only to find that the house is indeed haunted by a very mad being who wants the Perron family dead.

The story is, in itself, not that original. A haunted house. A scared family. Crazy happenings. But, it's the way the story is told that sets it apart. Wan has a great way of piecing together an interesting story and allowing even the slowest moments to keep us on the edge of our seat.

Each moment lends itself to going one of two ways: harp on cheesy/easy scare tactics or build on a growing, atmospheric fear and allow the creepy feelings to permeate. This works as it's a decent amount of time before we even see a portion of an entity. Where Spielberg made Jaws scary by not really seeing the monster at first and The Others freaked us out by ripping out a crazy twist no one saw coming, The Conjuring doesn't expect you to pretend you don't know the story. It allows you to fear what you're expecting by not really being able to see anything. If only more horror filmmakers took this device.

While the R rating is a little reaching since the bits of violence and gore are so minimal it should've received a hard PG-13, the film does provide quite a few jumps and leaves one feeling pretty creepy for hours after. It's the kind of scary film you see when you're a kid and it sticks with you forever.

If you're looking for a cheeky, fluff horror film, go see The Purge with the middle schoolers who have snuck in there. If you're looking for gore at its finest, check out the remake of Evil Dead. If you're looking for a smart, thought-provoking thrill, then The Conjuring is the film for you.

Rated R
Runtime: 112 minutes

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