In 1971, paranormal experts Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farminga) tackle their most severe case of bump in the night when the Perron couple (Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor) ask for their help in ridding their new farmhouse from evil entities. Everything but the kitchen sink and the actual kitchen is tossed at them! Will they prevail?
I've been interested in the real life Ed (demonologist) and Lorraine Warren (clairvoyant) since I saw the original THE AMITYVILLE HORROR (1979)
which was based on Jay Ansen's 1971 book The Amityville Horror: A True Story. The ghost-busting couple had investigated the case at the time, and true story or not, that film sent me to the library (no internet back then, you had to actually work to gather info) to research the case, which eventually led me to The Warrens and then I researched the shite out of them, fascinated by their many tales. Now before somebody throws charlatans and hoax my way as to The Warrens; it makes no difference to me, a good story is a good story, real or not.
Now although other films have been based on some of The Warrens cases (the 1991 TV Movie The Haunted or the 2009 lack-luster The Haunting in Connecticut
for example), this is the first time to my limited knowledge that they were actually portrayed in a film, with a story told through their point of view for the most part. And for that alone, I was excited for THE CONJURING. As you can see, I saw this one late. The San Diego Comic Con got in the way. So I had everybody and their uncle's mistresses poodle telling me it was the tits. So now that I finally tapped it, did it let me down? Nope, polar opposite it actually exceeded my expectations and lived up to the hype. This is James Wan's best film to date in my pointless opinion, dude covered his ass and then some and delivered a gripping, crawl under skin and even touching horror movie. Yup, Wan has progressed once again as a filmmaker. Props!
Now, when you've been watching horror movies and dissecting them for 13 f*cking years like I have (13... ummm, maybe that's why this year has been bad luck ridden so far, unlucky number); you can't help but go into a movie and search for the muck ups. Kind of like an editor who sees the cuts when he clocks a film. But every time THE CONJURING looked like it was gonna stumble on a generic genre pitfall (why don't you turn on the lights, why are you not calling for help when you know the house is haunted), it would quickly correct itself and tell me to go F myself. I loved it! There was an obvious attention to logic and detail on this one, and for me that was one of the reasons it worked so well. It aimed higher than the norm and actually hit the mark! Visually, Wan's style was more toned down than usual and that worked in the story's favor. He cranked it up at just the right moments for maximum whoopass (loved that upside down/right side up shot when the girl looked under the bed)! I also saw more (non shaky) hand held than in his previous films, which gave the whole a more "realistic" feel. NOTE: Was that a zoom-in I saw? if so, nice! Very 70's. And I dug how he kept simple when it came to his fear tactics; a creeking door, a child's toy doing "won't tell", a presence in the darkness communicated via a slow push-in... all familiar scare ploys yes, but in the right hands, they ALWAYS works, and that was the case here.
All of it could have flopped if I didn't give a shite about the characters here and once again, The Conjuring nailed that to the wall. I warmed up to how the folks were written and the chemistry between the two couples was realistic and endearing. You felt the love! It helped that a top notch cast was conjured up (had to do it, sue me) on this one. Patrick Wilson and Ron Livingston were affable and earnest as the men in the middle of it all. Vera Farminga's meticulous nature when it comes to acting showed in her meaty performance while Lili Taylor simply blew me away as she hit the varied notes that the role required of her. It had been a while since I had seen her on the big screen with such a juicy part, welcome back baby girl! I've always been a fan. Moreover there were all kinds of kids in here! And guess what? They knew how to act and were non annoying. The word "spanking” did not pop in my head once! That is feat in itself when it comes to a movie like this one that has so many kids in it. Somebody get that casting agent (s) some hot hookers and cold beers! Well earned!
Finally, I cherished the calculated build-up and the frights that came with it. This bad boy took its time in setting up its characters and dire situation. They really pinned down the everyday life vibe... the normalcy of it all. I bought it! Hence once the jolts kicked in, they back-handed me hard and left a mark. Yup, I jumped out of my seat like a frog with a fire cracker up its cracker at least 3 times, and the rest of the time, I simply felt uneasy... anxious if you will as to what was going to elbow drop me next. Add to all that class, a 70's time frame that I found charming, right down to the bowl-cut Livingston was pimping, an out-of-the-box/unsettling score by Joseph Bishara that supported the uneasy mood of the picture, a couple of 70's ditties that hit home (like Time of the Season by The Zombies), yet another creepy ass Wan doll (his version of the real life Annabel – see it here
) and even a bit of heart tugging via the final act and you get James Wan's best horror film to date and one of the best, if not THE best scare ride of 2013 thus far!
Any qualms? None. I guess I can say that the basic structure was familiar: family moves into house, pad is spooked, paranormal experts come in to help out... sounds like POLTERGEIST
for sure. But thankfully THE CONJURING took the familiar and made it feel fresh via the mad skills behind it and the curve balls it tossed my way (elements from Amityville Horror and The Exorcist
also surfaced for good measures). So on the whole I was a happy Crystal Lake camper with THE CONJURING and the fact that it did so well at the box office will hopefully give mature and original horror on the big screen, the kick in the butt it needs now of late. Thank you Mr. Wan!
This one earned its R Rating on scares alone. Dang!
Again, this one earned its R Rating on scares alone. Dong!
I'm on a solid summer movie streak now of late! Man of Steel, Pacific Rim, Only God Forgives and now The Conjuring! Yeehaw! This was a modern horror classic to me as Wan's latest fear injection had it all! Well developed characters and relationships? Check! Outstanding performances? Yup! Genuine tension and scares! Oh yeah! Gripping visuals and a disturbing score that pulled me in deeper into its beak world? You bet! A token James Wan spooky doll to give me the willies? Of course! It was all there man! Granted the basic story-line was familiar but like I always say: it's all been done at this point! It's HOW you do it that matters. And here, it was all aces! Word on the street is that a sequel has already green-lit, with Wilson and Farminga to return and I'm all for it. The Warrens are like Mulder and Scully, but without a sceptic in the mix. I'm totally game in following their further adventures, true stories, or no true stories, makes no difference to me! Bring it!
Ed Warren was a World War II vet and a former police officer. He died in 2006.
The Warren never charged a fee to the people they helped out.
You can visit the Warrens website here! http://www.warrens.net/