‘The Conjuring’ (James Wan, 2013)

It’s been pretty incredible watching the evolution of James Wan over the last decade. Saw; admire it though I do for the discipline to which it, as a seven-film franchise, maintained a consistent continuity, operated at the polar opposite side of the spectrum from his more recent haunted house pictures. The cheap tricks of frenetic editing and hyper-violence are now toned down in favour of a slow-burning elegance and focus on character, ably accompanied by the sort of playful direction and expert sound design that sold us all on Sam Raimi thirty years prior.

Wan, with Insidious, The Conjuring and (next month for Mr Prolific) Insidious Part 2 is pumping out A-grade ghost stories with their own self-contained mythologies, decent actors and a sense of restraint and class that some genre films never attain by either disrespecting their subject matter or aiming too much for the boozed-up Friday-night crowd. Hollywood shoots off a lot of junky possession pictures, very few avoiding the sloppy pitfalls of dissatisfaction, even fewer elevating (or maybe that should be levitating…) to a quality befitting the genre at its pristine best. Insidious, for its many strengths, felt somewhat restricted by the limitations of its paltry budget, but The Conjuring, with far more coin in the old bank, wisely blows the greater resources on impeccable production design and period detail. The result is a complete triumph of its type, and the most pleasing horror film so far this year.