Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Conjuring ~ Summoning Up the Supernatural

The Conjuring - Poster  0001 | A Constantly Racing Mind
"Diabolical  forces are formidable. These forces  are eternal., and they exist today. In a world that scoffs at ghosts and laughs at the unusual, the Warrens deliver a contrary message. That message is this: The fairy tale is true. The devil exists. God exists. And for us, as people, our very destiny hinges upon which one we elect to follow."

I walked into "The Conjuring" hoping that this film would scare the living daylights out of me.  Something that would leave me emotionally spent after the lights come up.  "The Conjuring” is the film that does exactly that.  Ignore the based on a true story tagline.  This film is scary and will scare the crap out of you.  The film takes place in the 1970's and centers on the Perron family and their encounters with the dark entities that inhabit their house.  We also view this story from the point of view of Ed and Lorraine Warren.  The Warrens are two real-life demonologists who have been investigating paranormal activity since the early 1950's.  Devout Catholics, the two join forces to fight the demons that have invaded the Perron family's home.  The film stars horror genre veterans, Vera Farmiga from "The Orphan," "Joshua" and television's "Bates Motel" as Lorraine Warren. Patrick Wilson who starred in "Insidious," "Passengers" and "Watchmen," as her husband Ed.  Ron Livingston ("The Odd Life of Timothy Green") and Lili Taylor ("The Haunting") are Roger and Carolyn Perron.  They have four girls, Cynthia, Christine, Nancy, April, and Andrea.  "The Conjuring" is rated R for some impressive and disturbing images. The film runs about 1 hour and 52 minutes.

I must admit that we have seen this film in one form or another over the past forty-years.  From the "Amityville Horror," to the granddaddy of them all "The Exorcist,” what makes director, James Wan's ("Saw" & "Insidious") new take on the paranormal horror genre different than the two classic films mentioned, is the execution.  Wan's vision of horror is superb as he brings all the paranormal horror genre tropes together perfectly.  The story is familiar, a normal family moves into a house that they purchased for a bargain, investing every penny into the house, and soon thereafter, strange things begin to happen.  The year is 1971, and the place is Rhode Island.  The opening shots of this film establish the Warrens as Paranormal Investigators, Ghost Hunters, Cooks, or as they prefer, Demonologist.  They give lectures about what they do, but they are portrayed as a God-fearing Catholic family who cherish their only daughter, Judy (Sterling Jerins).  The Perron family moves in to their formidable looking home with wooden floors, creaky doors, loose floorboards, and of course, a history.  They do all this to the beat of the Zombie's "She's Not There.”  The hairstyles are unmistakable.  All the guys wear long sideburns; Roger has the wide belt buckles, while Ed wears polyester.  Lorraine dresses in a frilly dress that I think my mother used to wear, and Carolyn seems fond of a housecoat.  The kids look like kids in my second grade class picture.  Almost instantly, the Things-That-Go-Bump-In-The-Night begins.  Simple things like a bang on a wall or a door, or pictures being knocked off a wall start the party off.  The disturbances get worse.  Carolyn appears daily with bruises on her arms and back, and Cindy is a somnambulist.

The Conjuring - Carolyn Dragged to Hell | A Constantly Racing Mind

Brothers Carey and Chad Hayes wrote the screenplay.  The brothers hit every motif in the book, from smells of rotting meat, birds crashing into the house, unexpected other-worldly appearances,  to weather that changes from mild to severe in the middle of a scene.  The first night, Sandy, the family's beloved dog is found dead.  James Wan's use of unique and weird camera angles punctuates the dread and urgency in each scene.

Composer Joseph Bishara creates the creepy, dread-filled atmospheric environment with his deep tones of the brass and the shrill shrieks of the violins.  The tension rises as the temperature drops on the set.  Together, with the subtle noises, the intense score and the shock images of the dead bring on the primal fear of the characters that transfers directly to the audience.  The Perrons call upon the Warrens out of desperation.  Ed is apprehensive, but Lorraine is fearless.  Lorraine, who has psychic abilities, had a traumatic experience while assisting in an exorcism on their last case.  As Lorraine and Ed inspect the house, they discover the dark entities that inhabit the grounds.  Upon the grounds lived a descendant of Mary Eastey, a woman convicted and hanged as a witch.  There is a lot going on in this film, however, the film is evenly paced, and we aren’t bogged down on any one detail.

The Conjuring - Creepy Doll Cameo | A Constantly Racing Mind

As the film progresses the suspense becomes even more palpable.  The tension rises and so does the freaky factor.  Done without the use of CGI, Wan goes back to the days before computer graphics and does the effects either in camera or manually.  This gives the atmosphere a certain sense of realism that the audience feeds on.  The actors too, emote a sense of fear in a way that can only happen when the ghoul is actually in front of you.  Make no mistake, director James Wan doesn't pull punches when it comes to jump scares.  James Wan uses the traditionally cheap jump scare effectively, and in the most sublime way.  Scream after scream went the audience, as we reached the climax.  At the end, our emotions spent, we all laughed nervously on the way out of the theater, and joked with complete strangers at which parts we jumped or screamed.  We enjoyed “The Conjuring” all in good, scary fun.

The Conjuring - Ed and Lorraine Warren | A Constantly Racing Mind

Release date for "The Conjuring" is Friday July 19th 2013 in the US


Movie Data

Genre: Horror, Thriller
Year:  2013
Staring: Joey King, Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Lili Taylor, Ron Livingston
Director: James Wan
Producer(s): Rob Cowan, Tony DeRosa-Grund, Peter Safran
Writer: Chad Hayes, Carey Hayes
Rating: R
Running Time: 105 minutes
Release Date: 9/13/2013
All images are courtesy of Film District

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