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'The Conjuring': Stars Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga are the best part of the film

'The Conjuring' centers on 1970s ghostbusters Lorraine and Ed Warren, who investigate a reportedly haunted house in Rhode Island. 'The Conjuring' is better than most horror films but doesn't quite live up to the movies it's referencing like 'The Exorcist.'

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'The Conjuring' stars Vera Farmiga.

Michael Tackett/New Line Cinema/Warner Bros. Pictures/AP

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As sympathetic, methodical ghostbusters Lorraine and Ed Warren, Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson make the old-fashioned haunted-house horror film "The Conjuring" something more than your average fright fest.

In 1971, they come to the Perrons' swampy, musty Rhode Island farmhouse – newly purchased from the bank – to investigate the demonic spirit that has begun terrorizing the couple and their five daughters – a working class family who thought they had clawed their way into a rustic dream house.

Lorraine is clairvoyant, and Ed is a Vatican-sanctioned demonologist. They're best known as the married, devoutly Catholic paranormal pros whose work with the Lutz family served as the basis for "Amityville Horror." ''The Conjuring," which boasts incredulously of being their most fearsome, previously unknown case, is built very in the '70s-style mold of "Amityville" and, if one is kind, "The Exorcist." The film opens with a majestic, foreboding title card that announces its aspirations to such a lineage.

Does it live up to that? More than most horror films, certainly. But as effectively crafted as "The Conjuring" is, it's lacking the raw, haunting power of the models it falls shy of. "The Exorcist" is a high standard, though; "The Conjuring" is an unusually sturdy piece of haunted-house genre filmmaking.

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