The Conjuring has very little gore or adult language, and only the tamest implied sexual content. Yet, the MPAA ratings board, which views nearly every film released in the U.S., gave it an R for sequences of disturbing violence and terror.
By LOEY LOCKERBY
Special to The Star
Translation: This movie freaked out people who have seen EVERYTHING.
The story is based on the actual case files of Ed and Lorraine Warren, husband-and-wife paranormal investigators whose work also inspired The Amityville Horror and The Haunting in Connecticut.
How seriously you take the true story premise will depend on how seriously you take the Warrens. Their belief system is full of notions like Satan-worshipping witches and demonic infestations, always presented with the utmost sincerity. Director James Wan (Insidious) follows their lead by playing everything in The Conjuring completely straight.
Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga are smart and sympathetic as Ed and Lorraine, who help the Perron family deal with strange occurences in their Rhode Island home in 1971.
Carolyn (Lili Taylor) and Roger (Ron Livingston) Perron are a struggling blue-collar couple with five daughters, who cant afford to move, even when they begin fearing for their lives. They actually have a good reason to stay put, and their plight makes them much more relatable than the irresponsible dummies who usually populate films like this.
The suffocating inevitability of the Perrons torment gives The Conjuring much of its creep factor. Wan builds suspense until its almost unbearable, then adds a little more, just to make sure the audience is as terrified as the characters. Even if youre a total skeptic, theres no denying Wans skillful pacing and creative use of an old buildings creaks and corners. Hide-and-seek is one nerve-shattering game when you live in a haunted house.
Its not easy to make horror tropes believable, but the four leads as well as the girls playing the Perron kids sell every twist, no matter how outrageous. You feel for these people and hope they can overcome whatever is attacking them.
Despite starting the torture porn craze by directing Saw in 2004, Wan shows remarkable restraint with this material. He knows what you need to make a truly scary movie, and its not blood and guts. The ratings board members could tell you that as soon as they come out from under the covers.