Ed and Lorraine Warren are semi-famous paranormal investigators. They are devout Catholics and very serious about their work. But they were most prominent in the 70’s and 80’s. Ed actually passed away in 2006, but his wife has carried on their work. They were one of many investigators of the home of Amityville Horror fame. James Wan thought their work would make for an interesting horror film.
The Conjuring is based on the case of the Perron Family. They moved into a home in Rhode Island, only to find themselves facing something very dark. The Warrens come in to investigate and discover the family is being tormented by a demonic force, specifically the spirit of a long dead witch. Lorraine has visions of the dead, while Ed and his crew of investigators observe the house.
The Conjuring is very moody and stylized. You feel compassion for this family in the grips of true horror. The Warrens are kind and gentle with the family, but firm with the spirits of the house. Of course, the film versions of Ed and Lorraine are a bit more glamorous, played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga. And frankly, they seem a little less…unhinged, than the real Ed and Lorraine do in some of the video footage I have seen.
The atmosphere is truly creepy, with many scares throughout the film. But the reason it is so effective in it’s tension is how engaging all the performers are. Wan has produced a solid thriller with the Conjuring. It is interesting to see Wan move from the gore soaked slasher territory of Saw to the more spiritual based (and largely traditional) approach to horror. While the visuals are modern, they manage to evoke the old school haunted house horror films of a bygone era.