The Conjuring Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Lili Taylor, Ron Livingston. Directed by James Wan. Rated R. Opens Friday.
James Wan may have started his career by directing the original Saw, but his subsequent horror movies (Dead Silence, Insidious) have relied more on spooky atmosphere than torture and gore. The Conjuring continues in the same vein, telling a pretty standard haunted-house story (supposedly based on a true story) with a series of creepy moments that ultimately don’t add up to much. Set in 1971, The Conjuring features top-notch period detail and some nice homages to horror movies of that era (The Exorcist, The Amityville Horror, Poltergiest). But the story of a nice family calling on a pair of ghost hunters (Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga) to rid their house of evil spirits is formulaic and anticlimactic, and the stylish scares eventually offer diminishing returns. Wan has gotten very good at crafting those creepy moments; now he just needs to apply them to a more interesting story.