johnlink ranks THE CONJURING (2013)

Some have suggested that not being religious makes one less likely to enjoy or be frightened by an exorcism story. But that would be like saying a person couldn’t enjoy INDEPENDENCE DAY unless they believe in aliens. THE CONJURING is a horror film with a solid reputation earned almost entirely by word of mouth after its release. It came without much fanfare, but managed to garner a good deal of appreciation. And, hey, all of this supposedly happened in a house in Rhode Island maybe 20 minutes from where I live. So I am in!

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I watched THE CONJURING (2013) on 3.18.14. It was my first viewing of the film.

In a sleepy Rhode Island town a couple (Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor) purchase a large home from the bank for their family, including five daughters. Immediately, creepy and scary things begin to happen. They call in famed (or infamous, depending on your point of view) real life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga). The house, they find, is the home of true evil. Chaos ensues.

THE CONJURING is directed by horror vet James Wan, most noted for his work on a variety of INSIDIOUS and SAW films. With THE CONJURING set in the early 1970s, he revisits films of that era for inspiration. Sometimes, when films claim to be a love letter to a past era of film they do so in tone and homage only. Wan, on the other hand, uses zooms and focuses which feel straight from that era of horror. He borrows the vertigo effect from Hitchcock’s VERTIGO and the handheld work of such films as TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE. Wan does a wonderful job of mixing 70s aesthetic with modern horror devices. It’s his best directorial work, and his other work hasn’t been light weight.

A key to good horror is to get good actors. While CONJURING may not transcend the genre the way SILENCE OF THE LAMBS does, it holds its own. Taylor and Livingston play reality and not fantasy. Farmiga and Wilson do the same, using the skepticism of their trade as an inlet to character and sympathy. The five daughters are played by able young character actresses, rather than being stereotypes or pawns (except, perhaps, for the oldest). The acting never pulls from the film, and that is saying something in an exorcism film.

The numerous scares are legitimate and well timed. The jump-scare has become a cliche to avoid in modern horror, yet Wan embraces and utilizes it in the context of a well-toned horror film. Rather than feeling cheap, the jump scares feel like true payoffs. Being a Wan film, there is a creepy puppet. Perhaps the only disingenuous note of the film comes with this puppet being thrust into the final act in a non-worthwhile way.

But that’s really the only negative to find. Some ‘based on a true story’ plots fail miserably. With CONJURING, this works despite probably being nowhere near any sort of reality that happened. This is a film which transcends the gimmick of based on a true story. While hard to compare to the young century’s best horror film (CABIN IN THE WOODS), THE CONJURING takes an easy jump into the top five of 21st century horror.

SCORES

FILM: 8; MOVIE: 9; ACTING: 7; WRITING: 8; BONUS: 1

The 70s aesthetic is both believable and a true asset which subtlety suggests one of the parent’s of this film, THE EXORCIST. Really nice work in creating this world.

8+9+7+8+1=33

FINAL SCORE: 8.25

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~ by johnlink00 on March 19, 2014.

4 Responses to “johnlink ranks THE CONJURING (2013)”

  1. Good review John. Less scary for me, but more tense and exciting as time went on and on.

  2. Nicely written John. I thought the first half of the film was much more effective, but went a bit off the hook towards the end. Still thought it was a pretty effective horror.

    • Purely a judgment call, of course, but I enjoyed the manner in which it went off the hooks. I thought it had earned a bit of eccentricity at that point.
      It’s a subtle line, for me, between being solid and being junk when it comes to horror. For me, The Conjuring fell dramatically on the correct side of the line.

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