‘The Conjuring’ (2013)… Scared the hell out of me.

9 Aug

The Conjuring poster 1When was the last time that you were genuinely frightened at the cinema? Ignore the torture porn of Saw and peekaboo jump-scares of Paranormal Activity for a moment; has there been a film, of late, that truly sent shivers down your spine? Such movies are few and far between these days, but The Conjuring does a fantastic job of reminding us just how effective horror films can be.

Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, respectively) aren’t your typical couple – he’s a demonoligist capable of performing exorcisms, while she’s a powerful clairvoyant. When they’re not giving lectures to apparently open-minded university students, they frequent various hauntings around the country, solving supernatural quandaries and collecting creepy memorabilia along the way. This movie centres around a particular case in 1971 at the rural Perron family farmhouse, headed by Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor, where ghostly happenings are becoming increasingly malevolent.

What separates The Conjuring from the vast majority of recent horror flicks is in its approach to scaring its audience. This movie takes a leaf from Hitchcock’s book by making us more afraid of what’s not seen; a door will slam shut here, someone will feel a chill there, framed pictures will crash and many more small, seemingly insignificant events will occur. This gradual process of applying layer after layer of tension forces the audience into a state of frenzied paranoia, so that when something truly grim does happen the results are absolutely terrifying. This is the sort of movie where you dread the sound of handclaps, let alone dark forays into the dusty basement.

"So... Who brought the Scooby Snacks?"

“So… Who brought the Scooby Snacks?”

This is also a rare example of a scary film that looks great. The old farmhouse, where most of the events unfold, is spectacularly and quite nefariously spooky. It’s the exact mental image one would associate with a ‘haunted house’; it’s got a squeaky floorboards, a cobweb-covered basement and all of the doors creak, all the time. The acting is superb too – Wilson and Farmiga nail their ethereal otherworldly personae while remaining grounded here on Earth, the five kids are all convincing and Ron Livingston, one of my favourite actors, remains godly. Lili Taylor officially atones for her appearance in that god-awful Haunting remake, and I’m glad to welcome her back from the dark side.

The Conjuring is an anomaly among modern horror films. It’s the fruits of wonderful acting mixed with some truly great writing, and with beautiful locations and décor it truly is deliciously 70’s flavoured. Not since REC have I been so frightened in the cinema.

Simon says: a real fist-chewer.

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