Does claiming to be based on a true story really benefit a horror film? That's the first question this well-crafted ghost tale poses by wasting no time going straight from on-screen claims of genuine veracity to the blatantly supernatural.
The claims relate to real-life couple Ed and Lorraine Warren, the paranormal investigators/ghost hunters/Scooby gang prospects played in the film by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga.
When we first meet them they're dealing with a ghostly entanglement involving an antique doll, but that compelling thread is dropped so they can investigate a young family plagued by some very familiar domestic horrors.
Soon the Warrens find themselves up against a force the likes of which they have never reckoned with.
The Conjuring is directed by James Wan, the talented Malaysian/Australian horror wunderkind behind the original (good) Saw film, as well as 2010's minor horror breakout, Insidious, which shares a lot of DNA with this film.
Wan builds suspense very effectively, and there are several stand-out chiller set-pieces. The grounded performances by Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor as the parents helps this film slide into its 70s setting with ease. But though The Conjuring pulls all its elements together with cinematic skill, it is devoid of anything surprising or even original.
It's foolish to place much stock in any film's claim to be telling the truth, but The Conjuring could've benefited greatly from maintaining some subtlety in this area.
Rating: R16; 112 mins. Out now