I really liked this. It's not a classic film and I can easily think of a lot of films that I thought were scarier. But, it is really well made. Really really well made. The story is solid and well handled. The characters are written and performed really well. They are all very unique and fleshed out and there's really not a single one that wasn't likeable and that really helps to build the sense of menace. Violence may be kept to a minimum, but there is still a good sense of brutality and threat. And in the end, the whole thing was just really classy. In tone, it came across as a modern version of The Changeling. Not similar in the story, but very similar in the approach or in the guiding sensibility.
I found the first half hour a bit annoying. There were a lot of jump scares with suddenly shocking music stings and it started to wear on me. But, once the film settled down and shifted its gears to really get into the story, the filmmakers let the atmosphere and tension build up and work in some really solid image based scares and I really appreciated that.
I think the only complaint that I can muster is that the film lacked depth. For all the good work that went into it, it ends up being an extremely fun thrill ride, but there's not a lot of meat underneath it. And for all the thrills and shocks, it didn't really get under my skin the way some of the best horror films do.
And, while I will say again that I didn't find it that scary, I also have to add that I have never heard any audience scream as much or as loud as I heard during this film. I could even hear some guys crying out at times. It was pretty impressive and it made me really glad that I saw it in the theater.
My final note of appreciation is a bit of a spoiler so
Other than in back stories, no one dies in the film. And, I have to say that I thought it was pretty impressive that the film could maintain all that intensity and still have everyone live
And I'll add that I certainly liked it a lot more than Insidious. I enjoyed the first half of that one, but felt that it really fell apart in the latter half. Conjuring goes the opposite for me. Didn't care much for the beginning, but they really piled on the intensity for the final act.