Russell Baillie writes about movies for the Herald

Movie review: The Conjuring

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Be warned. Despite a title suggesting it delivers a spot of abracadabra, The Conjuring pulls no rabbits out of hats.

But it sure knows some of the oldest tricks in the book - the volume being the horror movie manual of the 1970s from whence sprung the likes of The Amityville Horror, The Exorcist, and Poltergeist.

It also tells the usual fib of so many flicks where the only hope is some guy wielding a crucifix and his best Latin incantation. The one that says it's "based on a true story".

Yes, back in the early 70s, actual married paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (here Wilson and Farmiga) made their name with the case that was to inspire Amityville.

This story supposedly derives from something madder and badder earlier in their casebook. It's about the Perron family of seven (headed by Livingston and Taylor) who, having shifted into the Rhode Island mansion they bought dirt cheap, find themselves increasingly unnerved by, well, something.

Which might make this just another haunted house-cum-possession flick. One which jack-in-the-boxes you along to that big moment where the resident Linda Blair does something really yucky and emetic. And it is.

But while The Conjuring hasn't got any new tricks, care of director James Wan's taut delivery, this sure knows how to make the old ones feel new again. It certainly helps that it actually likes its characters enough to have them fully formed and flawed - Wilson and Farmiga are terrific and surely deserve their own spin-off television series based on this.

And despite Wan's past as the creator of the grim Saw franchise, it's remarkably gore-free.

It does, however, contain some horrors of early 70s fashion that may induce some nightmares.

But any horror movie that has the good taste to only let The Zombies on the soundtrack wins extra kudos, and its uncanny period accuracy and look just makes The Conjuring a curiously refreshing thriller-chiller and popcorn-spiller.

Stars: 3.5/5
Cast: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Lili Taylor, Ron Livingston
Director: James Wan
Rating: R16 (Horror and content that may disturb)
Running time: 112 mins
Verdict: Yikes!

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