MY REVIEW FOR “The Conjuring”:
THE CONJURING review: (***** out of 5 stars)
The giggles you hear during The Conjuring are the sounds of people who are delighted to be scared. Unlike the should-I-really-be-enjoying-this queasiness of, say, the first Saw movie or the yet-another-found-footage shocks of Paranormal Activity and its tiring ilk, The Conjuring is pure fun because it relies on our imaginations and on our sympathy for its characters more than it does sawed-off limbs or loud, sudden noises and visual effects.
It’s a ghost story about a family that moves into a nightmarish house and the husband-and-wife demonology/clairvoyance team that tries to help them get over a severe case of buyer’s remorse brought upon by apparitions, murdered pets and a whole lot of things that go bump in the night (And when I say “bump in the night”, I mean BUMP IN THE NIGHT). Any number of those things are apt to startle you, and because you’re surprised by how easily the movie works its way into your head, make you giggle with relief. That’s one thing that really works for it. It is well-written and make us actually CARE about the characters, and flashes back to why they are in their positions, giving them motives ans believable insight essential to any movie, horror or not. It forces us to become involved in the characters psychologically, and that is when a film can truly have power over us. The fact that it’s a true story makes it all the more chilling.
The cast is particularly great. Carolyn and Roger Perron (Lili Taylor and Ron Livingston) and their five girls are a kind, hard-working family that does not deserve to have phantasms puking down their throats. Spiritualists Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and the unbelievably fantastic Vera Farmiga) are calm, logical experts in the supernatural. We believe in what they’re doing, and the Perrons believe in it, because they don’t oversell it with dopey mumbo jumbo. The Warrens are people of faith and of science; they are dedicated to helping good people overcome God’s enemies. Ed and Lorraine’s most famous case was that of the The Amityville Horror (which is referenced in the latter part of the film). Lorraine Warren still does investigations today, and can be seen in such TV shows as Ghost Adventures. She also provides a cameo appearance in the film if you look closely.
The other thing about those good actors? Their believable fear becomes ours. It starts with the children, a quintet of child actresses who are, as kids would be, intrigued by the mysteries of their new house but who quickly understand that the monsters under their beds are legitimately monsters under their beds. Parents’ inability to protect their children from everything adds to our identification with the families, especially since Farmiga emphasizes the maternal nature of Lorraine’s ghost-busting (she hates the spirits, but she has compassion for their pain) and because Taylor is such a natural, warm mom. They are scared, and frankly, who isn’t scared by the things out there that would do harm to children? Especially when they lurk in the shadows.
Director James Wan keeps tight control on the frightening stuff, which mostly amounts to people or things in places where no person or thing is supposed to be. It’s a movie of creaking floorboards and dark corners and, as such, is best enjoyed in a dark theater full of screaming — and giggling — strangers. Perhaps the thing I admired most about The Conjuring is its ability to get into our heads and shock us without lavish visual effects or blood and guts. The psychological grip it had on me made me reminisce to such films as Silence of the Lambs and The Exorcist. That is not to say it is on the same level of those films, but through time will earn it’s place as one of the greatest in the horror genre.
I also unexpectedly took away a message of hope and albeit peace in the end. The struggle between good and evil and the innocent being preyed upon has always existed throughout history and will never cease. Walking away, while disturbed, I felt lucky to have the knowledge of which side I choose to be on. Truly a must-see! I found it to be practically flawless. Not for the faint of heart by any means, but such a well-acted, well-written, and well-directed work of art. Chills and heebie jeebies abound…BRING IT ON!
Any thoughts or disagreements?