Conjuring: Creepy Old-Fashioned Horror

In this day and age of spoof horror films (“Scream”” franchise) and CGI-driven thrillers, “The Conjuring” stands out in its old-fashioned qualities, which used to define the Hollywood horror genre for decades.

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As directed by James Wan, the new film works on any level, visceral, emotional, and even melodramatic. Did I mention that it’s also vastly entertaining?

World-premiering at the 2013 Los Angeles Film Festival (in June), “The Conjuring” will be released July 19 by Warner. Studio should expect strong rewards from the genre’s loyal aficionados. Absurdly, the MPAA gave the picture an R rating, claiming it was simply too scary for a PG-13, but the new rating should not affect the box-office receipts.

The scenario, credited to the twins Chad and Carey Hayes (adapting from the House of Darkness House of Light trilogy of books), dramatizes effectively an account from the 1970s files of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren.

The tale, which unabashedly includes spiritual dimensions, is considerably elevated by Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson, two appealing and graceful actors, who are very well cast. But to enjoy the picture, you don’t really have to buy into its “more serious” overtones.
You may remember how we used to scream at the sound of doors at are suddenly creaky, humans going for no apparent reason into cobwebbed cellars, toys (watch for well-placed dolls) that feel innocent but turn out to be nasty and unpredictable

The story contrasts two couples, Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson) and his trance- medium wife, Lorraine (Vera Farmiga), and Roger (Ron Livingstone) and Carolyn Perron (Lili Taylor), a blue collar couple who, with their four daughters, have moved into a large home in rural Harrisville, Rhode Island.

From the first night, strange phenomena begin to happen: foul odors spread, bumps in the night, broken trinkets. Things get worse when Carolyn develops bruises and the girls are tormented as they sleep. Then the poor family dog suffers fatally. When finally summoned to the house, the Warrens sense that it is a case of demonic possession.

Unabashedly familiar, the story, which belongs to the long “Haunted House” Hollywood tradition, borrows elements from “The Exorcist,” “Poltergeist,” and especially, “The Amityville Horror,” which was itself inspired by the Warrens’ most famous case.

This is sixth and most fully realized feature of Australian filmmaker James Wan (who had previously helmed “Saw,” “Insidious,” and thers), who continues to sharpen his dramatic and technical skills.

“The Conjuring” is an old-school creepy supernatural shocker.

A longer review will be published later today.