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The most recent production from Saw-teur James Wan reaped over $130 million at the box office—and with good reason. The Conjuring is a ripping ghost yarn that is subtle and suggestive in its creepiness and, when necessary, opens the taps into a full-tilt Good vs Evil battle royal (in the Judeo-Christian tradition) culminating in a no-holds-barred exorcism showdown. It also re-introduces fright fans to Ed and Lorraine Warren, a formidable tag-team of real-life ghostbusters, played here by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga.

This particular haunted house party takes place in 1971, in the 19th century Rhode Island home of Roger and Carolyn Perron (Ron Livingstone and Lili Taylor). The Perrons and their five daughters get tossed around by sinister forces, necessitating the intervention of the Warrens, who set up cameras, tape recorders, and other vintage ghost-hunting paraphernalia. Lorraine deduces that the central spook is a witch that tried to sacrifice her baby to Satan before hanging herself some 150 years prior, and whose modus operandi is to possess the mother and compel her to kill her child. In this case, Carolyn Perron has five to choose from!

The Conjuring doesn’t break any new ground, but it serves up all your favorite ghost tropes piping hot, with top-notch special effects, a great cast, and expert escalation of terror. Here, the haunting is like a vicious tar baby, ensnaring any poor fool that comes along. Even the Warrens, who are professionals and should know better, get swept up in a Satanic tsunami that poses a direct threat to their own daughter, who the couple left at home in the care of Grandma.

Speaking of which, the Warrens’ story is worth investigating. They’re the founders of the New England Society for Psychic Research, and claim to have been involved in “10,000” haunting adventures. Ol’ Sharky says check ’em out!

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