Thursday, 2 January 2014

The Conjuring

I'm not really a fan of horror. I mean I enjoy it when it's done well (see The Shining and The Exorcist), but for the most part I feel horror just doesn't deliver the goods. However, the film that soured my interest in modern horror was 2010's Insidious. It started out pretty great, had one absolutely chilling scene (the baby monitor scene, right folks?), but in its last half hour it ended very typically. The ending pretty much dissolved any mystique or fear the audience had for the demonic presence, and ultimately ruined all what came before it. 

At that point I pretty much took it upon myself to never watch a film by director James Wan ever again as I just felt a little cheated by Insidious. Then the Blu-Ray and DVD of The Conjuring was released, and naturally the potential to review it was up in the air. Not letting my idiotic boycott of all things James Wan get in the way of reviewing it for you guys and gals, I sat down to watch it with an open mind. I expected a typical modern horror film, but what I got was not only one that is very reminiscent of classic 70's horror, but also one of the best horror films in years.

The film centres on the Perron family, and the ghostly troubles they encounter within their new house. The house itself is filled with history, some of which is fleshed out during the film. They begin to hear knocks, movements and see doors slowly open. However, at first the family dismiss some of the more simple disturbances as typical behaviour of an old house. Then, after discovering a secret boarded up basement, the activity in the house starts getting more serious, and comes to ahead with two spirits working together to separate the children from their mother, thereby opening one of the children for an attack. 

This is when they contact Ed and Lorraine Warren, renowned paranormal investigators, widely known as the couple that investigated the “Amityville Horror” disturbances. Upon entering the house Lorraine feels a dark presence within, and this kicks off the film that centres around first researching the paranormal activity, then, if needed, conduct an exorcism.

The Conjuring feels like a classic 70's horror film. From the era its set in right down to the font used for the films title, The Conjuring is a throwback to the arguably the best days of the horror genre. This feeling of classic horror runs throughout the film, especially in the “less is more” mantra the film seems to have. There's no gore, violence or overuse of jump scares like so many horror films.

That said, there are jump scares to some degree, but they're achieved exceptionally well and show just enough to let the viewers mind fill in the blanks. Remember the scene in The Exorcist in which Regan, already completely infested and manipulated by the demon, starts to levitate above her bed? It was an incredibly disturbing scene, and The Conjuring has a few like that. I won't ruin them here, but The Conjuring contains plenty of scenes that will disturb, frighten and have you biting your nails. It plays on the mind when other horror films would throw copious amounts of blood at the screen.

Of course, none of this would mean anything if there wasn't a great cast to back up the excellent script and direction. The standout members of the cast in The Conjuring are Vera Farmiga; who plays Lorraine and portrays an incredible sense of weight of responsibility on her shoulders throughout the film, and Lili Taylor; the mother of the family being targeted by the demonic spirit, and a major player in the plan it has for the entire family. While everyone else is fantastic including the younger cast for which filming this must have been tough. Farmiga and Taylor both do an incredible job at presenting us real and genuine terror.

I was wrong. James Wan pulled it out of the bag with this one, and has delivered one of the best horror films in years. On a shoestring budget in terms of Hollywood standards, The Conjuring blasts most of the horror competition of the last decade out of the water, and reaffirms to us that there's still a reason to be afraid of the unknown. Whether you believe the film was inspired by true events, or whether you believe the Warrens are frauds, as many critics believe, it isn't important. The Conjuring is a film that can be enjoyed by all... if you think you can take it.

The Conjuring is success and conjures up a near perfect 8.5/10.

Denis Murphy

The Conjuring at CeX

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