Monday, July 29, 2013

The Conjuring

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 1-5. 1, of course, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! This movie leaves me wondering:  Is no isolated farmhouse with a history of unexplainable deaths free from demon hauntings?!?

The Conjuring – 4 out of 5

Horror films are a tricky thing. Very rarely do they get things right for me—and by “get things right,” I mean I rarely find them scary. It’s a hard genre because it’s quick to rest on its laurels and very little has been done to keep it fresh since it was created years ago and whenever they do find a new notch to fill in with some unheard of innovation, you end up seeing hundreds of films to follow that contain the exact same innovations and gimmicks; for example, the “found footage” horror sub-genre that now stinks up the world of scary movies. Sure, other genres have this problem but being scared is so much different than laughing at comedy, crying at drama or building an action-boner during an explosion/gun-firing action movie. Usually what scares you once may not work the next time and since I’ve been watching horror films since I was just a small child, I’ve pretty much seen it all in the world of fright films and find it incredibly difficult to have any reaction beyond fits of laughter. However, The Conjuring proved to be one of those rare films that actually spooked me.

**Warning:  This review may contain some light spoilers and combustible elements.  Keep open flames away.**

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In fairness, the toy she is holding was horrifying before it became enchanted by a demon.

Based on a true story (which, in the world of movies, means 99% of it is utter bullshit), The Conjuring tells the story of a haunted farmhouse in the 1970s. The Perron family moves into what should be the home they live the rest of their lives together in but are quick to find that something is resting inside the walls that wants them dead. It starts with noises, smells, doors closing and clocks stopping but soon builds to truly horrific levels as the children start to see ghastly apparitions and the mother; Carolyn (Lili Taylor) starts to wake with bruises covering her skin and something wishing to share her body with her. Soon, the family seeks the help of famed paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) to help bust some ghosts. The Warrens soon become obsessed with the case and do everything they can to stop the horror before the demons that reside within the home start to claim its next victims.

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"How about a little fire, Scarecr--um, ghosts?"

Like I said before, I found this movie to be incredibly scary and was all-around impressed with the film. Director James Wan (Saw) took the script and plastered it on the screen in a really horrific way that made each and every scare incredibly solid. Wan crafted a film that was more than just a collection of “jump sequences” like a “found footage” film would be and made something that had truly terrifying moments. Wan also knew exactly how to build tension to the point that often the build up was more terrifying than the payoff—but that isn’t to say the scare it culminated to wasn’t satisfying, he just knew how to get your heart-rate going.

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Seriously, they didn't invent flashlights until much later in the 1970s.

Wan also knew how to properly utilize light, shadow and sound to not only create an atmosphere and tone that is a prime breeding ground for scares but actually utilize this breeding ground and not just let it go to waste like some horror flicks will do. The sound and music constantly pounded me with striking tones that expanded on the horror and terror visuals unfolding on the screen and the way Wan used shadows to create fright rather than use it to obscure the way other horror movies do was fantastic. So often this blend of visual and audio elements kept making my brain and eyes believe they were seeing something in the darkness that, in reality, probably wasn’t there and it made my goose bumps have goose bumps and threatened to make all the hairs on the back of my neck fire out of my pores like quills on a porcupine.

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"Ah, this book isn't doing anything against the demon.  Quick, somebody get me
some self-published Twilight fan-fic!"

All the horrors that this film crafts were only solidified and given a feeling of authenticity thanks to unbelievably strong performances from the entire cast. Normally, I don’t find any role that Lili Taylor is in to be that great because I don’t find her very convincing as an actress but she was tremendous as the tormented Carolyn Perron. Ron Livingston was right there with Taylor, matching her beat for beat, as the confused and protective patriarch of the family and I can’t not mention the little girls making up the children in the Perron family. They really looked like a family being tortured by uglies from the other side and ended up making the film feel real. Their reactions never looked or felt over-the-top to me like I’m used to seeing in haunted house films and it only made the subject matter that much more frightening.

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"Can we hurry this exorcism up?  I got a meeting with the Bobs soon..."

The real scene stealers of the film had to be Vera Farmiga (Bates Motel) and Patrick Wilson (Watchmen) playing the real-life ghost hunters Lorraine and Ed Warren. There was real chemistry between these two that I could feel pouring off the screen and at no point did I look at them as Norma Bates and the Nite Owl ready to whip out some proton packs and a containment unit ready to blast some deadies back to hell. They really look and felt like the real people this film is based on…and this is coming from a guy who thinks paranormal researchers are just modern day snake-oil salesmen exploiting people’s beliefs in fairy tales (yes, I don’t believe in ghosts).

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"Unless the ghoul is wearing a leisure suit, I'm afraid there's little we can do against it."

So often with movies that involve spectral hauntings or possessions, the third act always ends up being the point where the filmmakers say, “Who gives a fuck anymore, let’s go nuts,” and the train that is the film goes flying off the rails and crash lands into an area populated with the ridiculous and explodes in a ball of smoke, fire and a complete sense of "Did they really put that in the movie?" The Conjuring didn’t go this route. Even when the film gets to its epic climax where the demons are ready to unleash all their dark powers on the innocents in the house, the film still felt grounded and, thanks to Wan’s incredible pace he built, the wild and terrifying final battle with the darkness didn’t feel silly or out-of-place but felt similar to another popular, iconic horror film; The Exorcist—being that the production knew exactly what they were doing and didn’t let the film go flying off and out of control like a high-powered hose spraying poorly written plot points all over the place; rather, it looked like the chaos the demon was raging through the house look controlled and tight. The point I’m making is that even when the film looked nuts, it felt logical and it never got too crazy; once again keeping with the overall theme of authenticity and realism the film gave off.

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"Goddammit, there's another person hanging themselves behind me, isn't there?"

While I may not buy into the idea that this movie is actually based on a true story, The Conjuring is one of the few times I’ve watched a horror movie about a tormented family by a demon that actually looked and felt real. The performances are extremely strong, the scares are perfectly crafted and the story moves at a great pace where it never drags and the scares only get better and stronger as the film progresses.


  1. Great review! This movie was my favorite movie of the year! Totally surprised by it! James Wan knows how to deliver a great third act.

    I love how the horror is built internally and there's rarely a "false" jump scare. This was one of the rare movies where I didn't mind everyone in the theater gasping/talking to characters because I was right there with them. No one could help it, we were all just so scared!

    1. Thanks!

      And I agree, I was also one of those who was gasping out-loud and commenting. I think my usual comment, "Holy shit," before I grabbed my chest.


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