It’s not rated “R” because of gore, sex or foul language — the usual suspects. No, “The Conjuring” is rated “R” because its paranormal-based violence is so … creepy.
The film is suspenseful and certainly contains its “boo” moments. This is not a stalk ‘n’ slash film, though. Rather, it’s a solid thriller based on the real-life occurrences in the home of the Perron family. They maintain to this day that their home was haunted by numerous entities.
It’s no surprise that this is a well-directed show. James Wan was behind “Saw” and the well-crafted “Insidious,” which has a sequel that will arrive soon. Wan is interested in dolls and mannequins as scary objects. (The whorls on the cheeks of his tricycle-riding Billy from the “Saw” movies are replicated here on the top of a music box.)
Here he brings into play Annabelle, an allegedly possessed doll that will be familiar to aficionados of the work of Lorraine and Ed Warren. The Warrens, played by Patrick Wilson, who also stars in “Insidious 2,” and Vera Farmiga, are well-known demonologists who traveled around the country investigating paranormal activity for decades, well before the current television shows that focus on such reports.
The Perron family included parents Roger and Carolyn (Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor) and their five daughters. The story begins in 1971, when the bizarre events reported by the Perrons began to occur as soon as the family moved into a new home in the country. Doors begin to open mysteriously, loud knocks startle various members of the family and what appears to be “sleepwalking” turns out to be something more sinister.
Really, this is a tale of two families facing something extraordinary together. While the Warrens come to stay with the Perrons to figure out what’s going on, Lorraine faces disturbing visions both at the Perron home and of her daughter, who is far away. While the visitations grow ever more intense and disturbing, the Warrens research what has transpired in the area long before the Perrons moved in, and they uncover the area’s chilling history.
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The cast, not surprisingly, is solid all the way around. Farmiga’s physical resemblance to Lorraine Warren is remarkable. (You’ll see the real Lorraine in a cameo if you look carefully at the front of an audience in a classroom.)
You don’t need to believe in things that go bump in the night to appreciate this well-written thriller.