“The Conjuring,” directed by James Wan, is downright eerie and disturbing, reportedly based on supernatural events in
Island in 1971: a family unknowingly moves into a
haunted abode, unaware of its dark history before experiencing some blood-curdling
occurrences. The horrified Perrons enlist the aid of renowned paranormal
investigators, the Warrens, to identify and stop the manifestations.
Wan has better material to work with; it's certainly focused, unlike the somewhat laughable “Insidious,” and he’s helped enormously by a powerhouse cast that “The Conjuring” ends up a considerably more solid, more satisfying film. Yes, once you get past the title font and some creepy apparition designs that look heavily and unmistakably inspired by “The Exorcist,” it’s easier to appreciate it as a horror flick with its own merits. And despite the heavy reiteration of the supposed importance of Catholic rites and beliefs, it’s easy to get into the urgency of the story, thanks to a proper melding of toned-down effects and fine acting.
In that regard, Lili Taylor is tremendously helpful as the embattled Carolyn Perron, mother of five similarly shaken daughters—and they all react impressively to well-timed disturbances. Also giving necessary dimension is Vera Farmiga as the unyielding psychic Lorraine Warren, attuned to the unseen but still occasionally vulnerable. And “The Conjuring,” while sometimes derivative and quite predictable, succeeds as a substantial chiller, able to conjure up scares with simpler technical trickeries and just superb acting.