I was particularly interested in seeing this movie (as were my kids) ever since I saw an article in EW about it's "based on a true story" origins. Usually these types of movies are total hoaxes, made to freak out 14 year-olds. This one, however, was given some credence based on the experiences of a real life husband and wife team of paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorraine Warren. In an interview with Lorraine (Ed passed away in 2006), this was a particularly disturbing case that they encountered in the '70's that stayed with them through the decades.
In this case, the Perron family with five daughters moves into a secluded farm house, and almost immediately strange things begin happening. Pictures fall off the wall, there is a smell of rotten meat in various rooms at night, and all the clocks stop at 3:07 in the morning, every morning. The occurrences escalate to the children having visions of a leering woman in a nightdress, being pulled off the bed by their feet, and sounds of whispering. Then there is that creepy, boarded up basement...
The Warrens have a reputation on the East Coast of successfully detecting paranormal infestations, so the mother of the Perron family, Carolyn, begs them to help. They know immediately there is a serious problem in this house, and go about trying to document it so that they can get permission from the Vatican for an official exorcism. But things take a turn for the worse before they can get a priest's help.
I thought the acting was solid...that is, for a horror flick. Vera Farmiga, who plays Lorraine Warren, has been in many great movies and received critical acclaim in "Up in the Air". Patrick Wilson, who plays Ed Warren, is a fairly busy guy who I remember for "Little Children", "Hard Candy" and "Insidious". There was very little character development, which is typical for this type of movie, but the actors made the best of it.
The first 3/4 of the movie was very compelling and kept things moving. Lots of jumps and screams. But towards the grand finale, things get manic but then are wrapped up quite a bit easier than you would expect if someone were trying to defeat a powerful demon. Just sayin'. I would have expected some body count, ala "The Exorcist". Also, because this IS based on real people and a (relatively) true story, I think a couple follow-up paragraphs at the end would have been a nice touch. Where did the Perrons go and how did they fare? Were they in counseling forever like I would have been?
I can't leave without mentioning this damned doll "Annabelle", which I thought was terrifying. The Warrens solved a case before meeting the Perrons where a Raggedy Ann doll was possessed. It was promptly stashed away in a room in Warren's house where they keep all of their dangerous occult items (see the picture on the left of the real thing). In the movie, the doll was much more sinister and was written into the movie to scare the hell out of us (the picture on the right).
By the way, it is also interesting to note that another movie called "A Haunting in Connecticut" was also based on a Warren case.
This is far from a horror classic, but it is better than most of the trash that is cranked out these days for teenage entertainment.
The Conjuring 2 is already in production.
3 out of 5 stars