You probably could just go read my review of Insidious 2 for this horror movie also directed by James Wan, though with horror stalwarts Chad and Chris Hayes (House of Wax, The Reaping) writing and Patrick Wilson in the ghost-buster role instead of the haunted role.
All of the elements for a good old, dark house movie are here: Creaky doors, things that go bump in the night, stuff flying around, books stacked in a way no human would stack them…
In this situation, the victims are Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor as the Perrons, a family who have moved into an old house that’s just chock full of ghosts, probably. Most troubling of the ghosts is Bathsheba, a witch with a penchant for sacrificing children to…Satan!
Based On The True Story that took place in the early ‘70s, thereby freeing director Wan from the troublesome nature of cellular technology and the Internet, this is a very well paced film that banks heavily on the likability of its character.
The Perrons are a good and happy family with five (!) daughters, and Wilson and Vera Farmiga play Lorraine and Ed Warren, spook police with a history of battling with all manner of imps and lesser demons.
This was one of the best reviewed films of the summer, and even did well overall for the year, I think due to great performances and a natural feeling portrayal of family life that allows you to get attached to the potential victims. With a cast as large as the one for this movie, you simply expect that some characters are introduced for the sole purpose of being killed.
Here, that would really bug you. (And it’s not the “based on a true story” thing, either, obviously.)
Another thing done really well is to make the Warrens selfless warriors in the battle against the Forces of Evil. The movie gives the sense that a the Warrens have a rich history going back before this incident, and they invest heavily in the Perrons which gives the audience empathy for both the Perrons and the Warrens.
I mean, for reals, how often do you see a horror movie about character?
That said, there’s no other real hook, here. No gimmick, like the Insidious series’ astral plane shenanigans or anything like that. It’s really a simple tale told well, with a fair amount of suspense (unusual for horror films these days) and hardly any gore to speak of.
This is kind of interesting although, post-Saw, Wan has demonstrated he doesn’t need to do gore to get scares. There are some blood effects but they perhaps more effective than anything over-the-top would be, because they feel real.
Although it was hard to get The Boy to this, he did enjoy it, as did I. Definitely among the best horror films of the year (2013), and even one of the best films overall.