Film review: The Conjuring (15)

Based on a true story, The Conjuring is an unsettling supernatural horror in which ill-fated characters behave with a disregard for common sense that would astound, were it not par for the cinematic course.

Thus, a doting mother-of-five hears noises in the dark, foreboding basement of her newly purchased home. She checks on her children and finds them sound asleep. She descends alone into the bowels of the property. Every fibre in our bodies tells us this is a bad idea and composer Joseph Bishara’s discordant score echoes that discomfort.

The Conjuring would be starved of menace and jolts if the protagonists didn’t put themselves in harm’s way - and to be fair to the mother, events here took place in 1971 Rhode Island, six years before the publication of The Amityville Horror.

James Wan’s film opens in sunshine with the arrival of Roger Perron (Ron Livingston) and wife Carolyn (Lili Taylor) at a rundown farmhouse in Harrisville with their five daughters.

Eldest child Andrea (Shanley Caswell) sulks about relocating to the middle of nowhere while sisters Christine (Joey King), Nancy (Haley McFarland), Cindy (Mackenzie Foy) and April (Kyla Deaver) excitedly run from musty room to musty room.

The family dog Sadie refuses to enter the property and that first night, the clocks all stop at precisely 3.07am. In the coming days, the Perrons experience increasingly violent episodes, which terrify Carolyn and her brood.

In desperation, the family turns to renowned paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga). For the Vatican to authorise an exorcism though, Ed and Lorraine must gather evidence of a demonic entity.