By Jeremy Kelly (Easton, PA)
In a time where many horror movies made in America are uninspired crap, save for the usual Paranormal Activity film, it’s such a breath of fresh air to have a movie like The Conjuring that’s both scary and entertaining. It isn’t exactly original, but it absolutely does what it sets out to do.
The film stars Lili Taylor and Ron Livingston as Carolyn and Roger Perron. They’ve moved into a farmhouse in Rhode Island with their five daughters – Andrea (Shanley Caswell), Nancy (Hayley McFarland), Christine (Joey King), Cindy (Mackenzie Foy) and April (Kyla Deaver). But strange things occur inside the house; Carolyn wakes up with mysterious bruises, the clocks all stop at 3:07 a.m., and the children start seeing paranormal apparitions.
In desperation, Carolyn goes to see paranormal investigators Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga). They set up equipment around the house to capture any evidence so an exorcism can be performed; they also discover while researching the history of the house that in 1863, an accused witch named Bathsheba (Joseph Bishara) sacrificed her child to the devil and cursed all who would take her land before committing suicide. Since that event, possessions, murders and suicides have plagued any who have inhabited the house.
The acting is mostly top-notch; Vera Farmiga is proving herself one of the better actresses around today, Taylor is solid as a loving but terrified mother, there’s a really funny police officer named Brad played by John Brotherton, and the children are actually well-acted and likeable too. Many times they either can’t act or are really obnoxious; I was afraid the eldest, Andrea, would be one of those annoying older siblings that does nothing but complain, but that didn’t happen. Joey King was really irritating in White House Down, but she does well here; Mackenzie Foy played the disgusting CGI child creature in Breaking Dawn, but she’s pretty good in this movie. It runs the same trend as Poltergeist, where the family that all of this horrible stuff happens to is so likeable that we care that they’re in danger.
The story is not special or unique; you can trace its roots back to films like The Exorcist and Poltergeist. But the execution is so good and devoid of clichés that it really does make you forget that it’s a story that’s been done before. It’s really impressive when a movie can take old tricks and make them seem fresh and new. Some of the greatest films of all-time have done that; I’m not saying The Conjuring belongs in that category, but it sucks you into the story in a way that you don’t notice you’ve seen it done already. The jump-scares are very few and far between; there’s a lot of build-up to them, and a lot of payoff.
But I will acknowledge that the execution is not always good. Some of the dialogue is pretty cheesy, particularly when it involves Ed and Lorraine. There’s a very predictable death of a dog early in the film. There are also scenes where they try to get a priest’s permission to get an exorcism perform, but when they do, they end up performing it themselves anyway; what was the point of that? Some of the cinematography is a little strange, like when shots are filmed upside down. I also feel like the climax is pretty rushed and has some especially cheesy lines, although I suppose I’ve seen worse cases.
It’s worth mentioning that this movie is rated R; not because of sexual content, profanity, or even graphic violence, but because it’s just too scary for PG-13. That’s all a horror movie needs sometime: not to have nudity, cursing and gore, but just to be scary. This movie accomplishes that; it’s a scary film, and those there aren’t too many of those nowadays.
So while this may seem like not much more than your typical haunted house flick, it succeeds based on its believable acting and steady direction; I think James Wan is one of the better up-and-coming film directors out there. The Conjuring made a real buzz over a summer that didn’t score a lot of huge blockbusters, and should become a staple of Halloween horror for years to come. It’s a great movie.
Rating: 8.5/10View Movie Quotes