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.
I will start off by saying that I’m a big fan of horror films. I find they are the only real genre that ever gets me to feel something. I always like to jump every once in awhile and it’s also fun to challenge myself by trying not to jump while watching horror. I don’t think I’ve ever succeeded in that. Anyway, a lot of horror films nowadays all seem much too similar in that they are either jump scares and/or unnecessary violence. Don’t get me wrong, I can definitely go for some dismemberment every once in awhile but it just has to mean something. At least that’s what I felt before I saw this the first time back in 2013. I was expecting more of the same but since I like Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, I still gave this one a try and it ended up being much more.
The film starts off pretty tame enough with Ed (Wilson) and Lorraine (Farmiga) Warren lecturing some college students about some of their cases (of course one of them is about Annabelle and we all know how that turned out). We quickly learn that they’ve been around the block a few times, so to speak, and have suffered themselves from it so they know what they’re doing. While this is happening, we meet a family including Roger (Livingston) and Carolyn (Taylor) Perron and their five daughters who are moving into a new, secluded farmhouse. It’s pretty easy to figure out that something was eventually going to happen to them.
As most horror films go, it always starts with things moving on their own and also strange sounds and/or smells and/or feelings. Since these were innocent enough, the Perrons just kept living with it until it started to escalate. Because of that, Carolyn decides to attend one of their lectures and enlists the help of the Warrens in this situation. We don’t see them all come together until at least halfway through the film. That’s okay, however, since the Warrens have a life and a family of their own which they must take care of. This created the opportunity for more background into their lives and establish their chemistry early on. They had very good chemistry which made them fun and compelling to watch.
What was happening to the Perrons, we’ve all seen many times before but it just felt different here (more so the first time than the second time). What gets you hear is the ambiance in which the film created. It does so by utilizing sound design and cinematography in such a smart way that it really feels more immersive while also creating a sense of tension throughout. The lack of the standard “shaky cam” helped to make everything feel more real which just added to everything else. Setting the film in the 1970s also added to the realism. The actual scares themselves may not have been the most original but since they were presented in this way, it didn’t matter.
What also should be commended is the film’s pacing. Of course the film features the standard introductory period which probably didn’t have to be as long but the film really picked up during the second half, once everyone got together. Nothing felt rushed or dragged as everything was leading up to the inevitable conclusion. It’s amazing how the film does this with an R-rating without the use of gore, sex, or profanity. It’s just plain scary.
The best part of the film was the performances, particularly by Wilson and Farmiga. They were great here as their characters felt very real and fun to watch and were also very likeable. There was just something about the things they did that were also intriguing. Taylor and Livingston were good as the Perron parents, without giving anything away, excelled further on. Any film with a lot of kids could potentially go either way but they were not annoying here and didn’t take away from the experience.
Overall, this was a great, exciting horror film. While not exactly reinventing the wheel, it was very beautifully done while also featuring great performances by Wilson and Farmiga.