Slow-simmering in scares anchored by frightening true background inklings and progressive escalation bolstered by Wan’s painstaking direction and attention to detail, but hindered by a slow start, clichés, and ill-cast family members. 7.5/10.
Plot Synopsis: In 1970, paranormal investigators and demonologists Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) and Ed (Patrick Wilson) Warren are summoned to the home of Carolyn (Lili Taylor) and Roger (Ron Livingston) Perron. The Perrons and their five daughters have recently moved into a secluded farmhouse, where a supernatural presence has made itself known. Though the manifestations are relatively benign at first, events soon escalate in horrifying fashion, especially after the Warrens discover the house’s macabre history.
*Possible spoilers ahead*
Pros: Gets right into the horror and macabre with a strong opening tease of downright creepy Annabelle doll setting the scene and giving backstory to Ed and Lorraine Warren who are the strongest points led by pedigree actors Vera Farmiga with a terrific performance and Patrick Wilson with an equally formidable one, true background inklings makes it much scarier and investable, good misdirections like the Rory musical box and slow-simmering direction by Wan with great pacing and slow-burn scares like the Nancy scare, progressive escalation as the antics start to get more intense and jump-worthy, impressive camerawork – point that needn’t go unnoticed seeing how it’s a rarity in modern movies like 70’s esque slow zooms and tracking shots fitting in with the time-period setting of the 70’s, some truly twisted and scary plot points like the mother basement trap with Rory, the ghosthunter angle and how deep it goes into it differentiates it from other haunted house stories and makes it scarier even perplexing experts in the area, crazy escalation of horror bordering into wild in the Lorraine basement reveal, great clearly-classic horror easter eggs like artful near-Shining feeling Annabelle Judy scare, Birds reference with all the crows surrounding the house, Exorcist in the exorcism, and Psycho cellar-slasher pose – Wan’s clearly a true horror fan and that is an awesome feeling knowing a new horror you’re watching is being made by a purist and fellow fan, thoroughly disturbing and intensely powerful exorcism scene – my word what an insane ending, great found footage editing post-credits
Cons: Casting of the family pretty weak and not nearly as well-acted as the star-powered Warrens with Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson, too slow in beginning – there’s a fine line between escalating horror and laying it on thickly but recovering in the finale, too many daylight shots, another haunted house story there are too many of in horror and of which there are many predecessors to learn from
Official CLC Score: 7.5/10