Time Out São Paulo

The Conjuring: review

The Conjuring: review

Opens 13 Sep 2013

Director James Wan

Cast Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Mackenzie Foy, Lili Taylor, Ron Livingston

So much is thrown at us by today’s hyperventilating horror that stillness has become the scariest move. Actually, that’s always been the case, but it takes a retro-fashioned winner like The Conjuring to remind us that if the creaky, old house ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Styled like a forgotten Nixon-era classic and set in the autumn of 1971, James Wan’s latest sheds all traces of Cabin in the Woods snark: no cell phones, natch, but no sarcasm either, as based-on-real-life heroes Lorraine and Ed Warren (Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson), a married pair of self-described demonologists, deliver a college lecture about possession to a respectful class of longhairs. (Even they haven’t seen The Exorcist yet.)

A famous case in Amityville is still a while off for the Warrens when they’re approached by Carolyn (Lili Taylor), mother of five girls, who begs for some paranormal assistance: It seems her family’s rural home, recently occupied, is yielding far too many bumps in the night for the typical fixer-upper. You know the setup from Poltergeist, but this film’s commitment to drawn-out shivers feels almost radical: Children’s games of ‘hide and clap’ yield unwelcome participants; a spooky jack-in-the-box found on a dusty shelf springs the unexplainable.

Wan cut his teeth on the first Saw and 2010’s half-realised Insidious, but he’s clearly been hiding an inner Val Lewton, attuned to lingering pauses. And like the wood-grained farmhouse itself – a beautiful piece of production design by Julie Berghoff – The Conjuring (Invocação do Mal) has an analogue solidity that makes the terror to come almost unbearable.

By Joshua Rothkopf
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