Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Conjuring (Movie Review)

The Conjuring (New Line, 2013.  Directed by James Wan)

Admittedly, I was one of the few people who wasn't enamored by Insidious.  So I proceeded cautiously to the theater today, despite all the buzz James Wan's latest frightfest has generated.

I needn't have worried.

The Conjuring is a smart horror film, one that doesn't force its players to make repeated stupid decisions just to facilitate its scares.  It is also well aware of its genre heritage, paying homage to a slew of venerable movies: The Amityville Horror, Poltergeist, The Changeling, The Shining, The Exorcist, even (amidst its climax) a certain Hitchcock classic.

There are enough startle moments crammed into The Conjuring's two-hour runtime to fill Val Lewton's entire oeuvre, and the film is permeated by unremitting creepiness.  It doesn't stoop to reducing its cast to anonymous, interchangeable visitors to some haunted attraction (although the five young daughters of the paranormally-plagued Perron family can be hard to keep straight at times), taking the time to develop its characters.  Real-life husband-and-wife Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga) don't come across as superheroes of supernatural investigation, but rather a family with a unique, and sometimes debilitating, profession.  Meanwhile, Lily Taylor shines as a housewife tormented by the dark history of her new abode, so much so that she actually overshadows
Farmiga (whom I suspect will emerge front-and-center in the
inevitable sequel).

Perhaps the biggest star of the film is the eerie Rhode Island farmhouse that forms its primary setting.  Drenched in sepia tones and sporting myriad murky nooks, the place is foreboding even without anything going bump in the night.  As if the rooms themselves weren't creepy enough, the action also delves behind the walls and under the floorboards.  One almost wonders if H.H. Holmes was the architect of this locus of American Gothic, a house harboring its foul share of secret passages and sinister compartments.

The Conjuring is the most effective movie of its kind since the first Paranormal Activity; at its suggestive, atmospheric best it even approaches The Haunting (the original, not the wretched remake coincidentally starring Taylor).  With its autumnal aura (perfectly captured by the movie poster), Wan's offering is quintessential Halloween-season fare, but mid-summertime viewers will relish its treats nonetheless.  When goosebumps erupt all over the audience's skin, it won't be because the cineplex's air conditioning has been cranked up too high.


Mirza Ghalib said...

The Conjuring gives an adrenaline rush to your body with few scary scenes and spooky moments. Only I wish , it could have been more. Couple of scenes will give you a jilt - The scenes where evil starts unraveling on the family , the moment Warrens enters the house and realizes the evil spirit latching on the family and finally the last exorcism scene has been filmed brilliantly. Cinematoography is good. Art direction is enduring. Editing is tight. It is Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga are the soul of the film especially Farmiga. She is fill of expression and gives in a great performance as Lorraine. Overall , a spooky thriller which has some scary scenes to entertain you along with strong direction , powerful screenplay and outstanding performances. A Must watch 3.5/5

Joe Nazare said...

Hi Mirza. Thanks for the comment. You make good points about the movie.

Looking forward to seeing where The Conjuring 2 takes the Warrens!