The writers and director of The Conjuring managed to conjure up a good horror movie. Few movie genres beat horror when it's good. The trick is finding a good one. These days, you get one of two types: chop and slash crap or demons and ghosts crap. You can make a case that some alien invasion, sci-fi thrillers are horror, but not in my book.
Besides, they too are mostly crap.
Dig through the ghost story category, and you'll end up in a sub-category called "true." Note "true" is wrapped in quotation marks. Most producers will put a disclaimer at the beginning of one of these and tell you that what you're about to see is "based on true events."
True in this case is Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor playing a couple who move into an old farm house with their four children. It's haunted. The entity involved is horribly evil and causes the family great distress. Vera Farmiga (TV's Bates Motel) and Patrick Wilson (Insidious) are paranormal investigators who are brought in to help the family.
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"True" in horror usually means people with the character names might have encountered an other-worldly entity of some type. Or a house in some neighborhood is haunted. People inhabiting those domiciles get creeped out but rarely do true-life ghost stories end up with people being killed, maimed or seriously threatened.
The violent and grisly doings of ghostly entities in the movies is pure Hollywood. That's when we're introduced to another horror sub-category. Ghost stories that actually work. This is where it comes down to pure skill.
How much of this is "true" doesn't matter. Terrific acting, decent writing and pitch-perfect directing from James Wan (Saw, Insidious) make this one genuinely creepy. Wan gets all the credit for making The Conjuring work. In a genre where most directors fail, Wan does everything right.
Horror fans. This one will definitely creep you out.
Director: James Wan
Stars: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Ron Livingston, Lili Taylor
Mr. Movie rating: 4 stars
Rated R for mature themes, violence, frightening horror sequences. It's playing at Regal's Columbia Center 8, the Fairchild Cinemas 12 and at Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on DVD.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.