In my 2011 review of "Insidious," it was suggested that director James Wan had a tendency of being overly self-congratulatory, his onscreen credit so large and bold and lingering during both the opening and ending titles that it would make even someone as allegedly egotistic as M. Night Shyamalan blush. With an uneven résumé up to that point consisting of 2004's "Saw," 2007's "Dead Silence," and 2007's "Death Sentence," it was concluded that Wan had not quite proven what the credits slyly suggested: that a master filmmaker of noted importance was in charge. With time comes perspective, however, and in the two years and four viewings since that original review of "Insidious," the film has only grown in impact. It's just as leap-out-of-your-seat chilling as it was the first time, and Wan's skill deconstructing the family unit while delving into supernatural subject matter that bypasses obvious frights while getting to the true heart of darkness and the unknown is virtually second to none. If "The Conjuring" is perhaps a fraction less rattlingly scary than "Insidious," that's still far creepier than the average studio-released horror films that come out these days. Credit must go to Wan for also not merely repeating himself; while it must have been tempting since both pictures are basically "haunted house" movies, this one never feels derivative. With a sure-footed elegiac pace and a keen understanding that anticipation and what we don't see is sometimes more affecting than the payoff, "The Conjuring" plays like a loving throwback to cinema of the '70s, the director comfortably joining company as reputable and varied as Alfred Hitchcock, John Carpenter, William Friedkin and Roman Polanski.
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