Director: James Wan
Writers: Chad Hayes, Carey Hayes
Stars: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Lili Taylor, Ron Livingston
Synopsis: Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren work to help a family terrorized by a dark presence in their farmhouse. Forced to confront a powerful entity, the Warrens find themselves caught in the most terrifying case of their lives.
James Wan is a horror genius. What Wan does with his imagry and camera work is nothing short of brilliant and it elevates this movie into a whole new level for this genre. While nothing here is original, it’s the execution that is flawless and what makes this horror film one of the best. In a movie that is rated R and has zero nudity, zero sex, zero gore, and little blood that can only mean one thing; it’s scary as s***. It’s the way Wan pieces all of the elements together perfectly that makes this film so good. The sound is incredible and it’s intentional which adds so much thrills that it will send chills up your body (the rhyming wasn’t intentional there). The ghosts in the film are not overused and the variety of how they are implemented in the film is great. The pacing of the film is spot on and you never get bored, yet you’re wanting it to be over at the same time. The way the story is weaved in and out of certain places with specific characters in interesting and thrilling all at the same time. It’s the little things though that make Wan so great at this. The camera zooming in on a crayon rolling on the floor by itself. Words on the screen telling you that this really happened and that these ghosts are real which psychologically messes with you throughout the experience. Every element has a purpose and when it adds up, you experience what could perhaps be the scariest movie of the year.
The story is supposedly based off of real events, which in movies is always exaggerated obviously, but it is pretty terrifying regardless of how true it may be. The story centers around the Perron family of five who move in but are not aware of the house’s dark and deadly past. Haunted by several ghosts that reveal themselves to the family, one by one, the family starts to get to their edge. So they call upon two paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorraine Warren, who do this for a living. They are respected in their field and even speak at different colleges and events on their work. The film is actually from their perspective and how they saw these events as one of the worst they’ve ever encountered. There’s some really great family dynamics and I love how they played on those relationships. The story kind of gets cheesy toward the end and there are even elements that aren’t needed but they don’t take away from the film either. The characters are set up well except for the relationship between Mr. and Mrs. Perron which wasn’t explored much. However, you get enough of a sense that it’s not terribly distracting. Oh and have I mentioned that it’s frightening what happens to the family? The script goes into who the ghosts are, what they are doing and why all of this came to be which again, isn’t original but it sets up the story to be played out well.
The performances are great. This genre can feel very cheesy and over the top in terms of performances if not done well. The three daughters are out of this world good for their age and what they are doing. Joey King, who we gave a hard time on for her performance in White House Down, is incredible here. Her and Mackenzie Foy pull of scared really well. While a lot of the screams are off camera, they still add chills and are done really well. And the one’s on camera…well let’s just say not a lot people can do it well. Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson have some great chemistry and did a fantastic job as the Warrens. Ron Livingston was also good although his character mostly was just doing stereotypical dad stuff chasing after his family who are being paraded around by demons. Lili Taylor is also descent but you can’t discuss her much without spoilers but I will say she does a good job. Like I mentioned, it’s a little cheesy toward the end but it’s the performances that are magnificent that helps this movie jump to another level since this isn’t that original.
Joseph Bishara knows horror and does it really well. Most horror scores are filler and stereotypical for the most part. A lot them just use a lot of strings and it’s something you’ve heard a lot of before. And while there is some of that here, it adds a lot to the movie. Wan uses the score fantastically and it’s used with a ton of purpose. Most horror films try to do this but it’s usually just used to fill cheap jump scares. This score is more than that. But to give credit where credit is due, the main theme used in the movie is very good and that was done by Mark Isham. If you’re not familiar with his work, you need to be. Either way, good stuff here.