- July 19, 2013
- James Wan
- Chad Hayes
- Carey W. Hayes
- Vera Farmiga
- Patrick Wilson
- Lili Taylor
- Ron Livingston
- Shanley Caswell
- Hayley McFarland
- Joey King
If ‘Poltergeist’ married ‘The Exorcist’ and then had an affair with ‘American Horror Story’ producing a bastard child.
Wow, a film that scares us silly with sounds, shadows, and what you thought you saw but weren’t quite sure. And then comes the second half of the film where the shit really gets crazy. And barely a gross-out scene in sight.
The filmmakers give us newspaper clippings throughout the end credits letting us think this actually happened in real life, whatever, who cares? This film is awesome.
The Perron family of seven (five! daughters) moves into a country house back in 1971 and begin to notice a few weird things wrong; voices, slamming doors, stopped clocks, a dead dog, oops spoiler. The mother Carolyn, another excellent performance by Lili Taylor, seeks out notorious ghost hunters the Warrens, Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) and Ed (Patrick Wilson) to help them sort things out.
What’s nice about ‘The Conjuring is that there is no stalling, “I don’t believe you”, moments. Everyone from Roger Perron (the dad, played by Ron Livingston) to the entire Perron and Wilson families treat this threat very real. They approach it intensely and selflessly. There’s not a bad guy in sight, at least that’s not already dead.
When things go beyond messing with people’s minds and actually start becoming physical all is in place to take action. I doubted whether the build up would be ruined by a cheesy last act and I am glad to report that doubt was unfounded. Even though we get a lot of crazy, it all works to scare us by the sheer volume of crazy going on. And I might actually say, it’s the most believable ghost story I’ve seen in a while. This is exactly what a pissed off Satan worshiping ghost/demon would do if let loose upon the world.
Let’s talk cast. Vera Farmiga is no stranger to horror starring in ‘Orphan’ and has played the distressed mother-type very well before. So she is the perfect fit for this character. She is instantly like-able and sympathetic as semi-psychic Lorraine Warren.
Patrick Wilson, who stars in James Wan’s previous film ‘Insidious’ and his next film “Insidous: Chapter 2″, portrays a solid, courageous and slightly out of his depth man who simply follows his wife’s lead and goes to fight evil spirits. Ron Livingston is nothing bad, nor nothing spectacular as Roger. He basically plays the same role he’s always played, a simple but honest guy who wants to do the right thing for the people he loves, he’s just not sure what that is.
But this is Lili Taylor’s showcase. As Carolyn Perron her role is small and kinda bland at first, but boy does she get to shine in the last act. I won’t spoil anything more, after the unfortunate dead-dog reveal. But absolutely giving yourself over to a performance, whatever it takes, is a good way to describe Taylor’s role in this film. Bravo.
And there’s quite a few laughs. Lots of period detail: Remember when a ghost photograph was actually scary, before Photoshop ended that bit of fun. A sparse but nice period soundtrack. Great production design, costuming, and minimalist ‘horror’ music.
John R. Leonetti is the D.P. and he does an excellent job. He’s worked with James Wan many times before and it shows. He has the confidence in his photography to try those crazy upside down and reversal shots and then to shoot in complete darkness for long stretches. Very creative and immersive.
James Wan, what can I say. After the glory, or do I mean gory, that was the first Saw film, he’s been on a role. And ‘The Conjuring’ now defines him as the best horror/”scary film” director currently working in the US. He almost never pretends the audience is stupid, no silly flashbacks to earlier scenes to remind us of important details. He uses intelligent characters to tell the story to us and not to tell jokes to us. His characters are people in weird and crazy situations, that do sometimes predictable and often times surprising things that feel real. This film never performs stereotypically frustrating horror film clichés–Why would anyone go into a basement alone looking for a serial killer wearing only a negligée?;)
The only real weakness I can say about the film is the bit about it being “based on actual events”. Obviously, the filmmakers believe this in concept, but the events they portray in this film go a bit beyond the fold. But then again?
Anyway, if you’re looking for a modern-day haunted house/possession story like ‘Poltergeist’ or ‘The Exorcist’ then ‘The Conjuring’ fits that bill nicely. A smart, very scary, and never boring ghost story. A Must See!
Aspect Ratio: 2.35 : 1
MPAA Rating: R
Length: 112 minutes