Based on true events (allegedly), this is the story of a New England family’s encounter with the supernatural and the paranormal researchers who help them battle the evil forces assailing them.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before. A family moves in to a wonderful old house when weird things start happening. Strange smells become strange noises, which eventually lead to family members being assaulted by unseen forces. Paranormal experts Ed and Lorraine Warren are brought in to investigate and eventually battle the evil presence that has the family in its thrall.
If you think that sounds like “The Amityville Horror”, you’re right: the Warrens investigated that, too. This is a story that any horror fan worth their salt has seen plenty of times before. But James Wan pulls it off better than many with this film. The scares come early and often and there isn’t the slow grind that plagues so many haunted house movies.
The film does suffer a bit from a sense of sameness. It’s downright impossible not to watch this and say it’s “Amityville” meets “The Exorcist”. That said, this film is more intense than “Amityville” and somehow more relatable than “The Exorcist”. James Wan’s direction is top-notch and Lili Taylor really stands out as the terrified matriarch of the family, playing the role with the same terrified vulnerability she brought to “The Haunting”. Some of the scenes with the Warrens, though, seemed a bit self-serving and didn’t do much to advance the story (other than maybe paving the way for the inevitable sequels).
The veracity of the story can be questioned (the Warrens also insisted that Amityville was true, despite pretty much everybody refuting it), but the creepiness of the film cannot. One of the few movies in recent memory with legitimate scares, the ending will have you on the edge of your seat.