REVIEW: THE CONJURING (2013)

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Ed Warren: The devil exists. God exists. And for us, as people, our very destiny hinges on which we decide to follow.

Director: James Wan

Starring: Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Ron Livingston, Lili Taylor

Synopsis: The true story of ghost hunters Ed and Lorraine Warren who must help a family deal with paranormal activity in their new home.

The Conjuring directed by James Wan is a classically styled horror film which relies on genuine slowly built frightening sequences and excellent characters to entertain and scare its audience. Unlike other recent horror films which rely on torture (Saw series) or found footage (Paranormal Activity series) to scare its audience, The Conjuring harkens back to the days of masterful suspense by directors like Alfred Hitchcock, John Carpenter and William Friedkin. Wan clearly a fan of these great auteurs gives his film a sense of respectability in not relying on gimmicks to surprise or shock his audience. He relies on mood, sound, atmosphere and a slow feeling of dread that surrounds every moment of this film. He utilises these elements extremely well in developing frightening sequences which admittedly we have seen done before, however he treats the scares with a genuine sense of authenticity and doesn’t pander to his audience. Although the film relies on haunted house and exorcism film genre conventions, Wan injects them with more than what we have seen in recent horror films and this easily excels all others in comparison.

THE CONJURING

Wan coming off the respectable horror film, Insidious, and the original Saw is now a genuine horror auteur and has reached his peak with this horror masterpiece. The film centres on the Perron family, father, Roger and mother, Carolyn (both played earnestly by Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor) and their five children. They move into a new house and soon begin to hear bump in the night. These early sequences are well choreographed and don’t rely on fake scares like a cat jumping out of the corner, instead cinematographer John R. Leonetti weaves his camera around the house and allows the darkness to creep into the daughter’s bedroom. His camera works wonders in setting up the shocking situation this family will soon be in. We also meet paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren who bring a sense of genuine chemistry to their partnership. Vera Farmiga excels as the tortured Lorraine Warren and Patrick Wilson plays Ed as a protective husband and father, a man willing to help and has a sense of duty to those in need. They meet the Perron’s and immediately sense a demonic presence in their home.

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The film then moves towards its compelling and shocking finale involving an exorcism that matches the original The Exorcist (1973) in its horror and intensity. With excellent acting, direction and cinematography, The Conjuring is perhaps one of the best horror films of the last decade. One which many will be aiming to replicate in our future.

Rating: 4 Stars

REVIEW: INSIDIOUS (2010)

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Elise Reiner: It’s not the house that is haunted. It’s your son.

Director: James Wan

Cast: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Ty Simpkins, Lin Shaye, Angus Sampson & Leigh Whannell

Synopsis: A family that moves into a new house experience supernatural occurrences which lead to their son falling into a coma.

Review:

Insidious directed by Melbourne’s own James Wan is a better than average haunted house tale. At this stage of his career Wan was a confident genre filmmaker with the gore-porn “classic” Saw (2004) under his belt. This film however contrasts to Saw’s over the top blood and violence and instead relies on quieter slow moving build ups to shocks involving excellent use of music and darkness to control the mood he wishes to set. He lets the film slowly build up to its scares without a spot of blood (mostly) throughout the entire picture. This works to his benefit as he uses classic horror conventions and gives them a modern day aesthetic. However all the build up eventually leads to an unsatisfying ending that intentionally baits a sequel.

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The story revolves around a family who moves into a new house to not only hear bumps in the night but also their son Dalton (Ty Simpkins) slips and falls into a coma, which leads to further mysterious events occurring. The film begins following the conventions of the haunted house formula but about midway through, screenwriter Leigh Whannell (Wan’s regular screenwriter companion) attempts to put a spin on the genre and introduces different dimensions into the mix. The father Josh Lambert (Patrick Wilson) discovers that as a child he also travelled to other dimensions and must return to save his son. An interesting concept, that for the most part works. Once Josh travels into the other dimension the sophisticated scares from earlier all but diminish as the film unfortunately grows increasingly silly.

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The leads Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson provide interesting leads. Byrne plays the scared mother well, recalling Ellen Burstyn’s performance in The Exorcist (1973). In fact this film borrows plenty from older horror films including The Exorcist and imagery from The Nightmare on Elm Street series. This film borrows a lot or relies on these conventions so much that most of the film turns into cliché. Patrick Wilson gives his usual confused everyman performance. In this film it plays into the plot as he is involved with the haunting of his son. Ty Simpkins does a good job as the child who falls into trouble and doesn’t mug for the camera like other children from previous horror entries. It was fun to have Australia’s Angus Sampson and Leigh Whannell as ‘ghostbusters’ who provide some light comic relief. This film is a better version of the Paranormal Activity series and Wan is a strong director. Here he has reinvigorated the genre even though he strongly relies on too many horror clichés.

Rating: 3.5 Stars

 

*In anticipation of Halloween I’ll be reviewing popular horror films of the past few years.