I was ridiculously excited to see James Wan's The Conjuring. I love me a good spookfest, and the movie delivers. Originality isn't the movie's strong suit (haunted house, exorcism, the works), but it's one of the strongest of its kind. Man, is it effective.
A prologue introduces us to Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga), a married team of paranormal investigators who have seen their share of possessions and hauntings. She's a clairvoyant and he's demonologist, and together they explain that sometimes people's imaginations run wild when they hear creaky stairs or the wind howling outside their bedroom window. They do, however, stumble on an actual haunting. BUM BUM BUUUUUMMM!!!
Lorraine feels a particular malevolent spirit has latched itself onto the Perron family, so leaving the house won't save them. In order to perform an excorcism on the house, the Warrens must gather enough evidence to present to the Catholic Church and receive permission. This is where stuff gets pretty spooky. While researching the house's history Lorraine and Ed discover numerous accounts of murder on the property (I don't want to spoil anything, so that's all I will say). Ed sets up thermal cameras all around the house, and they illicit the help of Drew, a cameraman and Brad, a local police man.
I don't want to say too much, because The Conjuring is actually really scary. It's not the most original horror movie out there, but it's incredibly effective. The build is slow, and, by the end, all hell has broken loose. I thought Insidious, Wan's last horror effort, lost steam by the third act. While I appreciate the visuals of it, I thought it became hokey and borderline stupid. The Conjuring is tauter and more focused.
It also helps that he has strong actors to work with in Farmiga and Taylor. Wilson is becoming sort of a Wan staple (he will appear in Wan's Insidious: Chapter 2 later this year). I don't remember the last time I saw Taylor on screen; she is an actress of intense focus, and it balances with Farmiga's calm demeanor.
The Conjuring reminds me of a camp fire story. Sure, it has the standard, jump scares, but it's more concerned with giving you goosebumps.