Director James Wan is no stranger to the horror genre, having achieved his initial notoriety directing the original Saw film nearly a decade ago as well as Dead Silence and Insidious in subsequent years. With Saw as his calling card, Wan has frequently been grouped together with other directors who followed with films that were similarly brutally violent. While Wan has not exactly eschewed violence (he made Death Sentence, a faithfully brutal entry in the revenge genre), his subsequent horror films have been more about alternating suspense with make you jump scares than with make you vomit gore. His latest entry in the horror genre touches on elements of haunted house and demonic possession films, which sounds like an uncomfortable amount of Venn diagram overlap with Insidious, but its 70s setting and a dedication to the horror aesthetic of that era set it apart from his prior work.
Studio: Warner Brothers
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA
Run Time: 1 Hr. 52 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, UltraVioletStandard VIVA Elite style case with spindle/hubs on inside of front and back cover and a lenticular motion slipcover
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 10/22/2013
Directed By: James Wan
The Production Rating: 4/5
Starring: Vera Farmigia, Patrick Wilson, Ron Livongston, Lili Taylor, Shanley Caswell, Hayley McFarland, Joey King, Mackenzie Fly, Kyla Deaver, Shannon Kook, John Brotherton, Sterling Jerins
Set in 1971 and "based on a true story", The Conjuring tells the story of the Perron family, Parents Roger (Livingston) and Carolyn (Taylor) along with their five daughters, Andrea (Caswell), Nancy (McFarland), Christine (King), Cindy (Foy), and April (Deaver). Shortly after moving into a seemingly idyllic Farm House in Harrisville, Rhode island, they start experiencing strange and progressively more dangerous phenomena that eventually lead them to seek out demonologists and psychic investigators Ed (Wilson) and Lorraine (Farmiga) Warren. While Ed is initially reluctant to take on the case due to the toll that recent cases have been taking on the psychically sensitive Lorraine, they are eventually persuaded to visit the house. Once there with the help of their assistant Drew (Kook) and Brad (Brotherton) a law enforcement officer assigned to work with them, they discover centuries old secrets from the property's past that threaten to endanger everyone who comes in contact with it.
The Conjuring is a refreshingly old fashioned horror film that wants nothing more than to make an audience jump out of their seats. The fact that it manages to do so without insulting said audience's intelligence puts it a cut above most recent entries in the genre. Director James Wan shamelessly pulls nearly every trick in the book to create atmosphere, maintain suspense, and make audiences jump at least once every few minutes. The tricks are not new and Wan makes little effort to reinvent them or give them a modern spin. While some viewers may yearn for something a bit more original, a "greatest hits" compilation can be just as enjoyable as an original album if the tracks and sequencing are done right. In one film, viewers are treated to an old house with a hidden basement, mysterious bruises, sleeping leg tugs, mysteriously dying animals, sleepwalking children, creepy clown faces, a child's invisible new friend, a child's game that takes a turn for the horrific, and numerous other "greatest hits", all presented with skill and style.
Helping to keep Wan's roller coaster of scares from running off of its tracks are the film's "true story" roots (the names have not been changed), its period detail, and its above average cast for the genre. The production design recreates the early 70s setting without straying into the realm of parody, which imparts some aesthetic credibility to the film's claim to be based on real case files of the Warrens. Farmiga, Wilson, Livingston, and Taylor play things low key and very straight during the crucial opening and middle acts of the film, creating audience empathy for when things take several turns for the worse. Even the child actors playing the daughters consistently underplay roles that could have easily veered into stereotypes.
The Conjuring Playlist from Warner Home Video
The AVC encoded 1080p HD presentation renders the films stylized cinematography with pin-point accuracy. Colors are intentionally muted to give it a period feel, and contrast is rendered perfectly so that the films many scare "gags" that involve visual elements emerging from and retreating into shadows play as intended in the digital video domain. While the lack of deeply saturated colors may not result in this becoming a go to demo disc for home theater enthusiasts, it strike the appropriate balance between aesthetic intent, cinematic appeal, and digital perfection.
Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio track is the primary weapon in Director James Wan's arsenal of terror tricks, and the mix as presented on disc plays perfectly in the home theater environment. The 5.1 surround field is used strategically and aggressively to immerse the audience in the uneasy environment of the Perron's home, and will have viewers nervously checking over their shoulder and jumping in response to the (literally) whisper to a scream dynamics, all rendered with outstanding fidelity. Alternate language dubs are available as Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks in French, Spanish, and Portuguese.
Audio Rating: 5/5
All extras are presented in AVC encoded 1080p video with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio unless otherwise indicated below.
Special Features Rating: 1.5/5
When the disc is first played, the viewer is greeted with the following promos
- Ultraviolet Digital Copy Promo (5.1 sound - 1:21)
- We’re the Millers Home Video Trailer (5.1 Sound - 2:28)
The Conjuring: Face to Face with Terror (6:39) features the Perron family discussing the real life events upon which the film was based. Carolyn is interviewed separately while Roger and his five daughters sit together for the interview. On camera comments are provided by Carolyn Buchanan, Roger Perron, Nancy Perron, Christine Perron, Andrea Perron, April Perron, Cindy Perron, Lorraine Warren, and Production Designer Julie Berghoff
A Life in Demonology (15:39) begins as a biographical featurette on the Warrens. Topics covered include how they met, where their interest in the paranormal came from, how they started, and how they operated from the 1950s going forward. It goes on to discuss how the Perron case was adapted for the film, and their legacy. On screen comments are provided by Lorraine Warren, Psychic Investigator Tony Spera, Director James Wan, Rev. Father James Anziano, Paranormal Investigator Joe Franke, Paranormal Historian Bill Morrison, East Coast Angels Paranormal Investigators Director Michael Salerno, Psychic Investigator Jason Butler, Screenwriter Carey Hayes, Screenwriter Chad Hayes, Producer Tony Derosa-Grund, and Producer Peter Safran.
Scaring the ‘@$*%’ Out of You (8:04) is the only behind the scenes featurette on the movie itself. Topics covered include lots of praise for director Wan and how he operates, how Wan incorporated events that the Perron family experienced into his cinematic techniques, and the importance of sound.On canear comments are offered by Safran, Wan, Vera Farmiga ("Lorraine"), Derosa-Grund, Ron Livingston ("Roger"), Producer Rob Cowan, Carey Hayes, Chad Hayes, Patrick Wilson ("Ed"), Berghoff, and Lily Taylor (Carolyn).
This Blu-ray combo pack also includes a SD DVD of the film including the film presented in 16:9 enhanced widescreen video with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. Alternate language tracks are available in French and Spanish with available subtitles in English SDH, French, or Spanish. Special Features are limited to the same Scaring the ‘@$*%’ Out of You featurette that appears on the Blu-ray disc. The DVD does feature some unique promos when the disc is first played. All promos are presented in 4:3 SD video with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.
- Ultraviolet Digital Copy promo (1:20)
- We’re the Millers Home Video Trailer (2:29)
- Man of Steel Home Video Trailer (3:05)
- The Hangover Part III Home Video Trailer (2:29)
- The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Theatrical Trailer (2:10)
- Getaway Theatrical Trailer (2:32)
An insert in the packaging includes a code to unlock an Ultraviolet Digital Copy of the film. Using the code to redeem the digital copy allows viewers to access high definition streaming versions of the movie on portable devices, smart TVs, and set-top boxes connected to streaming services such as Flixster, Vudu, and CinemaNow.
The Conjuring conjures up some old-fashioned scares thanks to assured stylish direction, a top-notch cast, and a plot that blends familiar elements from the haunted house and demonic possession horror sub-genres. It is presented on Blu-ray with a pristine audio-video presentation and some disappointingly slight special features.
Overall Rating: 4/5
Reviewed By: Ken_McAlinden
Support HTF when you buy this title: