The Conjuring uses every stock scare in the horror movie playbook for a dumb, yet charmingly traditional haunted house picture that manages to feel more retro than rehashed.
Supposedly based on a true story, the premise involves a family, a gothic country home and some pesky poltergeists/demons. The payoff involves a married pair of ghostbusters with psychic powers and exorcism training.
The 1970s setting evokes memories of Amityville and other horrors, which director James Wan quotes like a fan and emulates like a skilled technician. Wan’s jackhammer directing style (as shown in the Saw franchise) remains relentless, but he substitutes suspense for flying entrails.
Despite these qualities, which do manage to lift it above typical horror dreck, it is still meaningless, and entirely predictable. But if you’re looking to turn off your brain and shriek in the dark, this is your film.