Starring Lili Taylor, Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Ron Livingston
Oh GTBP readers, in my time here hopefully I have established myself, especially with my reviews, as a somewhat credible voice when it comes to telling you what is good and what is not. I am, at heart, a fanboy of all film, but yet when writing a review you want more to come through than just fanboy enthusiasm. I am also not the biggest fan of the horror genre. I’ve said this before, but I will see horror movies. To me the genre seems to be in a constant wheel of predictability. Where am I going with this you may ask? Well, this is all leading to The Conjuring; a film that had a somewhat effective trailer, a predicable premise and had a only a slight interest from myself. After seeing The Conjuring, I am now a big fan of James Wan and The Conjuring becomes the first movie this year that I give a 5 Abiding Dude rating to…say what?
Yep, The Conjuring is one of the better horror films I have seen in quite a long time. What it lacks in being predictable, makes up for with hitting all the right beats at the right times. It knows not to overstay its welcome with any particular scene, which can wreck a lot of horror films. It also knows that just the air of creepiness and frightful things can be more effective than shoving a bunch of scare shots in your face. James Wan, my hats off to you. Any other director making this movie might have turned into just another joke that garners more laughs than scares and for some reading this; you may end up doing just that. But me, I was effectively creeped out, I jumped a tad at intermittent times during the screening and I walked away more satisfied than I ever imagined I would have been.
The movie is, according to the scroll at the beginning of the film, based on a real case investigated by Lorraine and Ed Warren (Vera Farmiga & Patrick Wilson) of the Perron family. Carolyn Perron (Lili Taylor) and her husband Roger (Ron Livingston) move themselves and their 4 daughters to an old rustic home in the woods of Rhode Island. But they soon realize that the house is haunted by a demonic spirit and after a few frightful nights, ask Lorraine, a clairvoyant and Ed, a demonologist, to come and investigate. After a bit of reluctance, Ed & Lorraine soon find a house that has been home in the past to murder and suicide. As the investigation moves forward, the spirit starts to not only take over the lives of the Perron family, but the Warren family as well. As I stated before, this is pretty standard horror film fare but the film earns in stars and stripes in the little details.
Those little details are in how Wan moves this story forward and in effectively using moments to throw out his scare tactics. Horror films bread and butter are in the scares and far too often, films will either dwell too long on the scare or set it up so haphazardly that you see it coming a mile away, effectively killing any reaction out of its audience. Wan avoids those missteps here. This happens for three reasons: 1) Wan doesn’t just let his camera sit on a scene; he moves it around like it’s the restaurant scene in Goodfellas. 2) The inclusion of Ed & Lorraine and their story helps keep things interesting. They walk into this with an idea of what is going on, but they’re scared as well. And 3) the performances of the cast which help sell every moment, both frightful and non-frightful.
And I must make and extra special mention about the performances. While no one here will be mentioned come award season, all involved, especially the children, do their job in selling this story. While Wan avoids overusing the close up shots of someone frightened, they still have to be frightened. Wilson and Farmiga are both fantastic as Ed & Lorraine. I imagine it would be hard to try and act scared and we’ve seen it before , when you get people who can’t do that, it is painful to watch. Credit the filmmakers for finding the right people for these roles.
Even as I come to the end of this review, I’m still amazed at how much I like The Conjuring, but it really is an effective movie. So thank you James Wan. Thank you for restoring my faith, if only for a moment, in a genre that I sometimes brush off to the side. Oh yeah, this guy is going to direct Fast and Furious 7…now I’m really excited.