The films sets off to tell us through a relatively useless prologue how Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) are demonologists, or spirit hunters, or really whatever name seems to suit your fancy. They were the real-life investigators behind the Amityville Horror hoax. This husband and wife team soon cross paths with the Perrons, a family with five girls who just moved into a large farmhouse in Rhode Island. After only a few hours in the house the Perron family begins to notice strange things happening, from the clocks all setting themselves to 3:07 to foul smells coming and going.
As things escalate into the kids seeing ghostly figures in the shadows and pictures flying off the walls, the Warrens arrive on scene to help. Immediately Lorraine feels an ominous and hateful presence in the house, as well as seeing visions of shadowy figures and a woman who hung herself out back by the water. Whatever demonic presence is here certainly doesn’t like the Warrens tampering in its obsession with torturing the Perron family, and things begin to get even worse in the house, with Mrs. Perron getting bruises in the night and their youngest daughter continuously banging her head against a cupboard left there by the previous owners.
With a plot that we’ve seen at least a dozen times, The Conjuring offers little new in the way of storytelling, but its well acted and certainly has plenty to frighten you with. It’s filmed in a haunting way that combines some horror clichés with Wan’s own style of filming, and the tension is strongly established in a number of scenes. While supernatural spooks aren’t quite as much my thing as a flesh-and-blood man wielding a knife, The Conjuring should more than satisfy fans of the haunted house genre, and will frighten many others who venture upon the Perrons’ story.