James Wan grabbed the horror genre by the balls nearly a decade ago with Saw – the film that launched a thousand torture porns. It wasn’t until Insidious in 2010 that he started turning heads again (although I absolutely love 2007’s Death Sentence). Now with the masterfully crafted The Conjuring, Wan has established himself as a leading director in modern horror. Unfortunately, Warner Bros.’ Blu-ray of the film doesn’t deliver much insight into the director’s methodology. The disc contains three brief features that’ll leave you wanting more Wan-sanity, but at least the transfer looks and sounds incredible.
Horror fans were probably already familiar with the names Ed and Lorraine Warren before The Conjuring. Whether you believe in their controversial work or not, there’s no denying the couple’s authority as paranormal investigators. Lorraine’s the clairvoyant and Ed (who passed away in 2006) was the only non-ordained Demonologist acknowledged by the Catholic Church. That’s just badass. The Conjuring is based on the one case that was “so malevolent,” it wasn’t spoken about until now.
The film uses that “based on a true story” declaration and the Warren name as a pedigree, but shit, how many horror movies these days claim to be “based on a true story?” I lost count around the time Matisyahu became an exorcist. The Conjuring contains a laundry list of elements found in just about every other horror flick nowadays: possession, slamming doors, people being dragged by spirits, and a creepy doll – a recurring Wan component.
What makes The Conjuring superior to other horror films filled with these tropes? The presentation. The production design. The simple plot. The pacing. Wan and his crew did everything right that most others do wrong with these horror elements. The straightforward story is presented alongside very deliberate pacing, long-shots, and dreadfully slow pans to create an impossibly thick sense of dread. Wan uses a lot of creative shots as well that manage not to be obnoxious – like the POV shot of the daughter checking under her bed. That bit was cool-looking and gave me a genuine case of the willies.
Wan is a director who clearly has a vision so strong that he can take tired horror elements and breathe new life into them – because he actually gives a shit about the composition and pacing of his films, which makes a world of difference for an audience as hardened as horror fans.
The Conjuring is presented in 1080p HD in 2.4:1 widescreen. Wan and cinematographer John R. Leonetti’s sinister camerawork is beautifully and faithfully transferred. Detail is consistent even during the darkest scenes. There’s is nothing to complain about here.
Nor are there any hiccups in the audio department. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track is eerily immersing. It sounds like the evil apparitions are IN YOUR LIVING ROOM! It’s a dynamic track with audible dialogue and zero issues. Bravo.
In one of the brief features on the Blu-ray, “Scaring the @$*% Out of You,” we’re given a glimpse into Wan’s directing style. Everything from the length of the hallways to the width of the doors was planned by Wan and the talented production designer Julie Berghoff. This is the feature I really wish was longer.
The other two features are about the folks involved with the actual event. “Face-to-Face with Terror” looks at the real-life Perron family who reflect on the experiences in their old house. The mother is clearly still shook by the events.
“A Life in Demonology,” the longest feature (15 minutes), looks at the work of Ed and Lorraine Warren. She discusses how her and Ed met and how they began their life’s work in the paranormal. There’s also a glimpse into their Occult Museum in CT, which I painfully regret not visiting when I lived in New England.