Brian Henry Martin at the movies

Scariest Film of 2013?

Published Thursday, 08 August 2013
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Side-burned psychic investigator Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson) presses record on his tape recorder and calmly states: "It's November 1 1971, I'm sitting here with Carolyn Perron who, with her family, has been experiencing supernatural occurrences ..."

And so begins The Conjuring.

Holy moly, I was not expecting to be scared out of my wits by this creepily crafted and sublimely superior supernatural horror, but I was. Before the end, my cinema seat had worked itself through the three demonic stages of infestation, oppression and possession.

How refreshing that Saw director James Wan decides not to bombard the screen with blood and gore, but instead spook us with a thrilling old fashioned chiller.

Before the infamous Amityville, horror was to be found in Harrisville, Rhode Island, and a dilapidated, old farmhouse where Carolyn and Roger Perron relocate with their four young daughters. This sleepy setting seems like the perfect rural escape from the perils of the city.

However, the family pet Sadie the dog, refuses to enter their cosy new home - Scooby Doo she is not. For something wicked is lurking beneath the floorboards.

On their first night, the children play a game called hide-and-clap; while playing, one of the girls finds the boarded up entrance to a cob-webbed cellar. Whatever you do don't open it. Of course they do and soon things go bump in the night; doors open and close seemingly by themselves, all of their clocks stop at the same time, and Carolyn hears clapping when nobody is there. The petrified Perons are plunged into night after night of relentless paranormal activity. Also having your leg pulled is no laughing matter in this haunted house as something strange is tugging at two of the daughters' feet.

Mother Carolyn (Lili Taylor) seeks the help of noted paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorraine Warren to bust their ghosts. "Something awful happened here, Ed," says the highly spirited Lorraine (Vera Farmiga), who senses that a particularly malevolent spirit has latched on to the family.

As the horror heats up, the scares keep coming at an alarming rate. All menacingly framed by crooked trees, creaking stairs and dark shadows. Creepiest of all is Annabel, the devil doll, one of the possessed items the Warrens' keep in their crypt of cursed collectables. Annabel, walks, talks, knocks on doors and even leaves disgruntled notes when you don't answer. Not since Anthony Hopkins' killer ventriloquist in Magic, has the sight of a demon dummy prompted me to bolt for the exit.

But where the The Conjuring really succeeds is that it allows us to scare ourselves. There is nothing more terrifying than our own imagination. The 1970's setting is exquisitely recreated, complete with classic family automobile, the cream coloured station wagon with wood panelled sides. Don't you just love those cars?

It may feel like the wrong time of the year to be frightened, but The Conjuring is the most darkly entertaining film of the summer so far.

The Conjuring (Cert 15) is now on general release.

© UTV News
B. H. Martin
B. H. Martin

Brian Henry Martin is an accomplished documentary filmmaker and UTV's resident film critic, appearing regularly on UTV Live Tonight.

No matter what the film, there's a good chance Brian has seen it.

Twice.

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