Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Review: The Conjuring

The Conjuring might be the single scariest horror film I’ve seen in a very long time. Oh it’s not the best. The Cabin in the Woods still has the quality award in the horror field for the last few years, and modern classics like Let the Right One In and 28 Days Later don’t have anything to worry about, but in terms of pure number and intensity of scares, I can’t think of a recent movie that had me jumping or yelling quite as often.

The plot is devoted to a family who has recently moved into a new house and found…well all the stuff you find when you move to a new house in a horror film. You know the drill: Strange noises, weird smells, oddly cold, doors keep banging shut, dog won’t go in, sealed off basement o’ evil. Soon enough, shit has gone south enough that they need help and since they have intimate knowledge of the future, they call in the husband and wife team who worked on The Amityville Horror case (no seriously, google that shit) to help them out. And then it gets crazy.

The clever among you might deduce from that plot summary that it has a tiny bit of the cliché about it and yeah it does (the plot, when all is said and done, reads like a cross between Poltergeist and The Exorcist, with the odd element from The Woman in Black or Evil Dead thrown in). But that doesn’t really matter too much, in the same way that an action move being a bit on the cliché side doesn’t matter, although I will say, the plot has an odd bit of unfortunate implications about it, given it’s connection to the Salem Witch Trials. Not a big issue, but it makes a tiny bit uncomfortable whenever it comes up.

But the reason the plot in a horror movie can stand to be a bit weak is because we’re here for the scares and holy shit does this movie deliver in that regard. Through a solid combination of atmosphere and good direction, it manages to be both eerie and intensely scary. Even the scenes that don’t have anything scary in them manage to convince you they will soon. I’m not too proud to admit that I outright yelled a few times, and my friend had her eyes covered throughout 80 percent of the movie. And that’s before we get to the big ‘all hell breaks loose’ climax, which is both genuinely intense, and very creative with it’s set pieces and in the way it pays off all it’s various chekovs. It was directed by James Wan, who previously did the only good Saw movie and a bunch of other movies that range from okay to kind of sucks, and it’s nice to see him getting his footing as a horror director.

The actors all turn in good performances, especially Vera Farmiga as, basically the lead character. Another great performance comes from REDACTED, especially once we eventually get the inevitable possession sequence. All the rest are playing their stock characters well, although it is, as always, nice to see Peter Gibbons (better known as Ron Livingston).

Movies like The Conjuring are ride movies, just as much as big action movies are, but with fear, instead of excitement, as the emotional high. And while it’s a bit cliché with a weak script, The Conjuring is one of the best rides of its kind I’ve seen in a while. Recommended.

Elessar is a 23 year old Alaskan born cinephile and he wonders if they can make a sequel without getting sued by whoever owns the rights to The Amityville Horror.

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