It's time for a good ol' fashioned haunted house story with The Conjuring.  And while the often-overused "based on a true story" tag may not push this movie from from fantasy to reality for viewers, there is methodical proceeding to the horror that makes the film more believable that the standard horror movie -- and more effective.
In 1971, Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson) and his wife Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) work studying the supernatural.  Ed is a demonologist, while Lorraine is a clairvoyant.  They record cases of supernatural occurrences, debunk or explain the mundane events, and store affected items in their home -- including a very creepy doll.  And their latest case is the Perron family.

Roger Perron (Ron Livingston) and his wife Carolyn (Lili Taylor) just moved into a new home with their five daughters, ranging in age from a cute little girl to a surly teenager.  And the warning signs start almost immedictely: The family dog won't enter the house, the youngest daughter finds a music box that she says belongs to her invisible friend (who will appear when the music stops), there's a sealed-off cellar, doors and windows open and close, and so on.  When bruises start appearing on Carolyn, the kids seem to be pulled and attacked, and a creepy being starts appearing, the Perrons turn to the Warrens for help.

The Conjuring is, as much as possible, a paranormal procedural.  The Warrens know there's something evil and want to perform an exorcism, but they need proof to give to the church -- leading to a scientific collection of data while fearing what's attached itself to the family.  The movie is simple, yet quite effective.  While the movie has the usual flying furniture and sudden appearances of decaying ghosts, there are also moments of great tension, such as when a blindfolded Carolyn plays "hide and clap" with an unseen entity, or as Lorraine gets unsettling visions of what happened before in the house.  The acting is solid, the chills are there, and while The Conjuring treads familiar territory, it does so pretty well.

Overall grade: B
Reviewed by James Lynch

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