I Saw A Film Today… The Conjuring

MM_CONJURINGThe rise in the popularity of paranormal investigation in the last couple of years here in the United States is in some ways more depressing to me than our fascination with a hillbilly family in Georgia with a daughter who likes to pick her nose in front of cameras. I always thought hauntings and the like were hokum parlor tricks meant to amaze young catholic boys (the ones who were not getting fondled in the robe closet). But it seems a large population of this country still believe that the things that go bump in the night is actually auntie Mary haunting the toilet she died on. Eh, go figure. I mean, there were people in this country who considered electing a man who believed that wearing a burlap pair of undies kept the devil away from his penis as president… what’s so far-fetched about ghost?

Roger and Carolyn Perron (Ron Livingston/Lili Taylor) and their five children decide to move into a remote farm-house in Rhode Island in the year 1971. While the kiddos are playing a game of hide-and-clap, the family discovers a cellar that was boarded up. Then as night sets in on the first night, the creepy stuff comes out to play.

After things take a turn for the ultra-violent, the Perrons decide to call upon the services of paranormal experts Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga), who decide the house needs to be exorcised of the evil spirits occupying it. Needing approval from the Vatican, the two families set out to prove the house is haunted, but it may already be too late as the paranormal guest are getting really pissed off.

I’ll admit, I thought very little of The Conjuring going in. It seemed like the same recycled haunted house story that has floated in and out of theaters for the past several years and has been the bane of the minimum wage cinema worker who has to endure the shenanigans of teenagers and the complaints of adults. But I was terribly wrong. It’s rather refreshing in a twisted way. A hearty fresh exhale in dusty dark room.

Now, not to seem like some brave viking, but scary movies much like this don’t really scare me, with exceptions of some like The Exorcist. Films about the depravity or greed of man, on the other hand, do. As do spiders. But this film has its moments of genuine hair raising spookiness. There were moments when in my screening accompanied by movie-hopping teens and adults alike would let out everything from whimpers to uncomfortable gasp of laughter, to mask their fear.

The Conjuring doesn’t rely on gore, which is surprising for a film that has an R-rating. In fact, I there is very little blood at all. other than fresh cuts and face wounds. It doesn’t rely on CGI either. Most of the horrible monsters are glorious prosthetic masks and good old-fashioned wire work. Sure, there are a bounty of squeaky doors and random banging noises, but nothing is cheap. No random ghoul appears out of nowhere… because you know exactly where they come from.

The cast is pretty typical of a horror flick, both good and bad. Ron Livingston exudes pure 70’s modern man, and further proves that he is one of the most underutilized actors in Hollywood. Lili Taylor does well enough, as much as you’d expect from the possibly unstable mum. Patrick Wilson has become accustomed to this sort of fair, not quite one this good mind you, but he still holds up regardless. As does miss Vera Farmiga. And a big shout out to Lindsay Lohan as the creepy doll that kept popping up for some reason… oh wait, that wasn’t her. Whoops.

The Conjuring is a surprising blend of classic horror with a little new age thrills, mixed well by modern horror vet James Wan.

Verdict: See it.

*Rated R for sequences of disturbing violence and terror.  Directed by James Wan (Saw, Insidious). 112 minutes.

** Thanks to my friend Cody for sharing this with me.

*** Poster by Midnight Marauder.

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