VERA FARMIGA PATRICK WILSON LILI TAYLOR RON LIVINGSTON
There are few horror films that manage to display the level of restraint that The Conjuring showcases. Horror genre films are nearly by definition works that want to break down all barriers and push the audiences level of comfortability as far as they can. Films like The Exorcism of Emily Rose and The Mothman Prophecies are stories based on facts and terrifying experiences; they use elements associated with horror films, yet raise the level of fear by simply displaying things we know to be true, or at least walking the line of possibility. Even more to the element of restraint is how director James Wan (Saw, Insidious) proves that he can deliver thrills and chills without the gore.
In 1971 The Perron family moved into an abandoned old house in a small town in Rhode Island. Carolyn (Taylor) and Roger (Livingston), with their five daughters, begin making the squeaky house their own when doors start to open, pictures start falling, and their daughters start screaming in the night. After weeks of torment, The Perron’s plead with Ed (Wilson) and Lorraine (Farmiga) Warren to help them with their problem. Gaining some national notoriety with their expertise in the supernatural, the husband and wife team discover something very evil in the Perron house that will test everyone’s limits.
The fact the studio is heavily promoting this film as a true story is certainly going to drive audiences inside. The Conjuring is appropriate for younger adults wanting to get scared (they will undoubtedly learn something, too) and for mature audiences that want to see a disturbing story treated with respect. Wan certainly has the “boo-moments”, but never relies on them to entertain. Wan follows the nearly forgotten principle that less is more. He allows the actors to flesh out these characters (many of them still living) instead of making them players on a board.
“There is almost always a rational explanation,” Lorraine says to one client when they discover having a faulty water pipe, causing their house to appear disturbed. The relationship between the Warrens is almost a romantic subplot, giving the audience even more to invest in. The art direction of the creepy house is commendable as is the unique camera angles somewhat familiar in Wan’s previous films. The Conjuring isn’t groundbreaking, but that isn’t always a bad thing. It’s very successful at delivering a suspenseful, well acted film that doesn’t succumb to cheap antics or unnecessary fright tactics.
Final Thought – The restraint of the filmmaker and talent of the actors elevate this film to more than just another horror flick.
By: Dustin Chase
Dr. Donna Copeland’s
There are few movies that have been so nerve-wrackingly scary to me as The Conjuring. Until the very end, the writing is taut, and the characters are appealing and personable. A demonologist and his psychic wife, the Warrens (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) introduce their work with the occult by letting us in on one of their lectures at a university. Then, we meet the Perron family as they move into a two-story house with cellar and attic out in the country near some woods and a lake. They seem normal and happy, with the typical sparring among the five girls. It appears they have been through a trying time, and are optimistic and looking forward to a better life.
Odd things start happening gradually—the dog dies, followed by a bird, the clocks stop every morning at 3:07, and there are the creaks and groans of an old house. Then things get more serious; Carolyn Perron (Lili Taylor), the mother begins to see bruises on her body; one of the girls feels someone pulling on her feet in the middle of the night. When the situation worsens, Carolyn goes to hear a lecture by the Warrens, and begs them to come to her house. The rest of the movie is about the Warrens and their team setting up equipment in the house and grounds to monitor the goings-on, after they become convinced that the house—and its inhabitants—are possessed by a demon. Eventually, they must do something because the situation becomes life-threatening.
It is at this point that the filmmakers go all out, and it starts getting too absurd for my taste. However, until that time, the story line (Chad and Carey Hayes), the music (Joseph Bishara), and special effects altogether make The Conjuring a real hair-raiser.
Award winning actors Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson make a convincing couple committed to helping people through ghostly experiences. Lili Taylor, likewise a recipient of multiple awards, has perhaps the most challenging part in this film, and succeeds in every way. Director James Wan is experienced as a writer and director of horror films (Insidious, Saw, Dead Silence), and he has created a truly scary tale in The Conjuring.