Review: 'The Conjuring' wild, wicked piece of filmmaking

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Director James Wan has conjured up one wicked piece of filmmaking with "The Conjuring," a true-life horror tale that is easily one of the scariest movies of the year.

A dark and disturbing tale of demonic possession -- it's not as much a haunted house tale as the TV spots suggest -- the film is sure to produce sleepless nights for its unsuspecting audience. It's a spell-binding tale chock-full of suspense, jump-out-your-seat thrills and ghoulish horror.

The film tells the tale of two families: the Warrens, made up of demonologist Ed (Patrick Wilson) and his clairvoyant wife, Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) and their young daughter; and the Perrons -- Carolyn (Lili Taylor), Roger (Ron Livingston) and their five daughters.

The Warrens, of course, were famed, real-life paranormal investigators who for decades starting in the 1960s conducted thousands of probes into the supernatural, including "The Amityville Horror" in the mid-1970s.

The story of "The Conjuring," which Lorraine Warren (Ed Warren died in 2006) and the Perrons apparently decided not to reveal until now, took place in Harrisville, Pa., in 1971. It's there were the Perron family purchased an old farmhouse in an idyllic country setting -- a quaint environment that was quickly shattered when a dark and malevolent force of evil invaded their home.

See my review of the film on "KARE 11 News at 11" with Diana Pierce below.

Wan is certainly no stranger to the horror film genre, having directed the smash indie horror film "Insidious" with Wilson in 2010 (the team also reunited for an upcoming sequel), and he amps up the tension considerably with "The Conjuring."

While the "true story" hook gives the film an instant edge for filmmakers, "The Conjuring" will surely rattle most moviegoers' nerves -- even those who are skeptical about paranormal activity or the idea of demonic possession. From a filmmaking standpoint, Wan has spun a masterful tale, and like a slow burn, he ratchets up the intensity from seemingly harmless bumps in the night to creepy imagery (clown figures, dolls), and horrific visions (demonically possessed people) to a frightening exorcism scene at the film's conclusion. He oftens employs subtlety over in-your-face horror, which is a welcome change.

Interview: 'The Conjuring' star Patrick Wilson

Interview: 'The Conjuring' star Lili Taylor

The film's cast, though not Hollywood star splashy, is perfect for the film. It boasts a talented ensemble of great actors, from the likeable Wilson and Farmiga, who warmly embody the passionate Warrens -- a devout, religious couple who weren't in it for the money or fame, just merely the idea of helping people.

As Roger Perron, Livingston brings a measure of calm and confusion to the role of a man whose family comes under siege, while Taylor gives the film's best performance as the matriarch of the family who is hit hardest by the evil forces that terrorize the family. In the supporting roles, the girls who play the Perron daughters give respectful and believable performances that make the whole scenario all the more unnerving.

Get ready to jump, scream and have your mind go through some serious torment. "The Conjuring" whips up some serious fear.

"The Conjuring," rated R, 3 1/2 stars.

See the trailer for "The Conjuring" below.

What other local critics are saying ...

Chris Hewitt of the Pioneer Press gives the film 3 1/2 stars, and admires the film for it's technique. "'The Conjuring' is pure fun because it relies on our imaginations and on our sympathy for its characters more than it does sawed-off limbs or loud, sudden noises," Hewitt writes.

Bring Me The News film critic Tim Lammers is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association and annually votes on the Critics Choice Movie Awards. Locally, he also reviews films on “KARE 11 News at 11.” As a feature writer, Tim has interviewed well over 1,000 major actors and filmmakers throughout his career and his work is syndicated nationwide.

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