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THE CONJURING (BLU-RAY)
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Reviewed by: Andre Manseau

Directed by: James Wan

Starring:
Vera Farmiga
Patrick Wilson
Ron Livingston
Lili Taylor
Mackenzie Foy

Movie:  
star star star star
Extras:  
star star star star
Overall:  
star star star star
What's it about
Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren work to help a family terrorized by a dark presence in their farmhouse.
Is it good movie?
Let's get a few things out of the way first. The Conjuring is a little cheap in its scares. It uses a lot of different horror cliches to get the job done. Lots of boo scares, scary women, scary dolls, possessions, ghost stories, haunted toys, "paranormal" ghost activity, marks and bruises showing up on people, scary basements, all kinds of silly stuff. The Warren family angle takes very little actual research to find out that they're really (arguably) just hopefuly believers who haven't proven much.

But dangit, this movie is just so much fun. It's so much fun.

Led by a great cast (Lili Taylor and Ron Livingston play the parents of the family in peril, while Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga play our paranormal investigators), The Conjuring is arguably one of my favorite movies of the year so far. Why, do you ask? It's simple- this is a love letter to retro horror flicks. The long, sweeping camera shots. The amazing setting of the Perron home and its wide batch of land. The 70's look and feel of this film is authentic- it captures a true moment in time and just works. Even the opening title sequence is drenched in 70s style. Love it!

The characters are built well. You can tell that Wilson and Farmiga have a great chemistry as the Warrens (and their "damaged goods" subplot totally anchors the film). I truly feel that Farmiga is one of the most talented and versatile actresses going today, and her commitment to the role certainly shines through as the sympathetic and determined Lorraine Warren. Lili Taylor is also superb in the role of Carolyn, and she's got some heavy lifting to do throughout the film- impressive. Ron Livingston is our troubled father trying to keep it together for his family, and I even tneed to throw the kids a bone- they're excellent (extra special mention to young Joey King, who had the market cornered on seeming terrified). The honest ups and downs of the Perron family had love lying underneath which makes this movie successful.

As for the plot of the film, yes- as I mentioned above, it definitely has familiar elements. The thing is, these elements are timeless and executed so well. It's refreshing to see a talented director like James Wan use the subtle things, like silence, or the creak of a door to make an audience hold its breath. It also helps that the film doesn't take itself super seriously and adds humor into the mix properly. Still though, this is a horror film that knows how to build a seriously terrifying atmosphere that will induce goosebumps. Wan loves to linger on shots to make you wonder what'll happen next- he's not a quick-cut mashup guy and this film is better for it. Props to cinematographer John Leonetti for painting a beautiful canvas for the Conjuring to work with.

I won't pretend that The Conjuring is a perfect film- it builds to a somewhat silly conclusion and doesn't necessarily break new ground. With that said though, the cast is excellent, Wan knows exactly how to build a proper scare, and the characters are sympathetic and relatively well-rounded. This is a horror movie that you've seen in certain ways before, but this time it's polished up marvelously and presented in a magnificent package. This one will remain on my shelf for a long time, and hopefully will hold up to multiple repeat viewings. Easily Wan's best film yet.
Video / Audio
Video: 2.40:1 widescreen with a nearly flawless transfer. Can't complain an ounce here. Beautiful.

Audio: A perfectly balanced and booming DTS-HD Master Audio track.
The Extras
Scaring the @$*% Out of You is a brief 8 minute EPK package that is pretty standard stuff, quick interviews with the cast and crew, a few behind the scenes shot and the truth behind the "real story".

A Life in Demonology runs about 15 minutes or so and talks a bit more in-depth about the Warrens. Lorraine herself even shows up here. Really cool little piece.

Face-to-Face with Terror is more real-life stuff with the Perron family (the real people) showing up, Lorraine Warren is back again and there's plenty of insight into the true home the folks lived in. It's only a little more than 5 minutes long but it's a great inclusion.
Last Call
I've heard that this is Wan's final horror film. If that's true, he can rest easy as he's made one that'll go down in the books as a truly terrifying flick that manages to build to a fever pitch. Things go from worse to truly unbearable, and the whole thing got pulled off without any real gore or nudity to speak of (and the MPAA wanted to rate it R just because it was so scary!). I can't recommend this enough- the extras aren't heavy, but the A/V specs alone make it worthwhile.
ARROW IN THE HEAD'S RATING SYSTEM
star star star star I'D BUTCHER MY FAMILY TO SEE THIS AGAIN
star star star HANG ME BUT I DUG IT A LOT
star star AN OK WAY TO KILL TWO HOURS
star JUST SLING AN ARROW IN MY HEAD AND LET ME DIE IN PEACE

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