In the case of The Conjuring, we have a movie that never tries to break out of the tropes. Instead, the movie works within them, rather than focus on transcendence, the focus is on execution of the known. There is a reason these formulas came to be, and it is not because they don't work. There is a way to break out of the idea of "familiarity breeds contempt". You want to be familiar and effective? You must work on the execution. Take those tropes, beat them into submission and use their power against the audience.
The Conjuring is based on an actual case investigated by the Warrens, Ed and Lorraine (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga). However, before I knew that, I had seen the teaser trailer. It was a great and simple piece which set the tale in the 70's based on its look as introduced us to a few of the characters, a mother (Lilli Taylor) and her daughters. They are playing the clap game and then weird thins happen. Pictures falling violent from the walls and clapping coming from places where no one is, primarily. It is effective, creepy, and very enticing to the horror fan (despite the derisive laughter of the heathens in the audience).
The movie is a simple one, it does not attempt to do a lot, just do what it does well. We meet the Perron family, Roger and Carolyn (Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor), and their five daughters. They have just moved into a new home in rural Rhode Island and it doesn't take long for weird things to begin happening. Clocks stop, doors open, claps come from empty rooms, and the occasional invisible hand pulling at one of the daughters feet while she sleeps. It doesn't take long before things escalate and Carolyn seeks out the Warrens, asking for their help. They agree and things get dangerous.
You know, it is really as simple as that. But the beauty of this movie is that it takes what is ostensibly a simple tale and makes it involving, it makes it scary, it makes it downright creepy. There is an understanding of material going on here that ensures a roller coaster ride of creepy thrills.
The movie was directed by James Wan. His career got off to a big start when Saw came out, but he has proven himself to be more than a blood and guts style director. He demonstrates skill, restraint, and a great sense of timing as we are guided trough this tale. The story was written by the brothers Chad and Cary Hayes and is clearly their best work (they previously teamed on Whiteout, The Reaping, and House of Wax).
The Conjuring is one of the best pure handed house tales to reach the screen in some time. It is scary, it is creepy, it is supremely atmospheric. This is a movie to watch and let the chills dance up and down your spine.