THE CONJURING is the only movie I can remember that's rated R just for being too scary. There's no nudity, little gore and only the occasional swear word. However, it still earns its rating simply for being genuinely frightening.
From the first SAW to INSIDIOUS, James Wan has shown that he gets the different facets of horror and what makes audiences react. THE CONJURING feels like the culmination of his studies in the genre—a spooky throwback to 70s-style scary movies with an old school opening crawl and title card, methodical camerawork, and a minimal visual effects or gimmicks. There's also not much in the way of cheap jump scares; it's all about an unsettling mood and building tension and dread over time. Wan isn't reinventing or subverting the genre, just making a very solid and effective film.
What's most remarkable though are the characters. Wan, along with writers Chad and Carey Hayes, have managed to create a group that are not only likable, but act and feel like real people. (In a horror movie, it's a minor miracle.) The freaked out Perron family, led by Lili Taylor and Ron Livingston, are relatable as victims and also react appropriately in ways that won't leave you shouting synonyms for "stupid" at the screen. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga have created great characters in the real life Warrens and a team worthy of exploring in future movies. I'd gladly watch a series of film focusing on other cases that add to their haunted "trophy" room. Wan balances both groups well, whether they're together or apart, and the acting, even for the younger children, is solid across the board.
The exorcism finale feels, fresh though it ventures a bit in to hokey territory (the power of love compels you?), but that's a very minor complaint in an otherwise successful movie. Time will tell whether or not THE CONJURING becomes a classic, but from the creepy doll Annabelle to the clapping game, there's plenty here that will be iconic in the horror genre.
THE CONJURING: Face-to-Face with Terror (6:37): The actual Perron family, as well as Lorraine Warren, shares their experiences from the haunted farmhouse. Honestly, hearing it from their firsthand account just makes the film that much creepier. The mother admits she's not willing to see the film, for the same reason she won't ever go back inside the house.
A Life in Demonology (15:39): Lorraine Warren shares about her relationship with her late husband, their work as paranormal investigators and how accurate THE CONJURING is. (You also hear from Ed through audio recordings.) Other psychics, clergymen and director James Wan comment on their work and the film as well. You also get a brief look inside the Warren's "trophy" room, though the real Annabelle doll is blurred out so she can't steal your soul.
Scaring the '@$*%' Out of You (8:04): Cast and crew discuss the development of the film and Wan's approach to building suspense and creating scares through visuals, sound design and more.
The Blu-Ray also comes with a DVD and UltraViolet digital copy.
THE CONJURING is one of the better scary movies of modern times and James Wan's best film. Highly recommended for horror fans.
Extra Tidbit: Check out the documentary MY AMITYVILLE HORROR for a brief glimpse at the real Lorraine Warren in action.