Saturday, August 10, 2013

THE CONJURING (2013)

Written by Chad & Carey Hayes


Directed by James Wan


Where & When: MJR Digital Theaters, Westland, MI. July 22, 2013  9:30PM


I'll admit that I spent a large portion watching "The Conjuring" peering through my hand that was partially covering my face. This apparently fact-based account of one family's ordeal of supernatural forces terrifying them in their new home will most certainly give you some serious chills the old-fashioned way as it focuses more on creating an eerie mood that's designed to really mess with your head.

Looking to escape the stress of urban living, the Perron family moved to a small and quiet community in Rhode Island. Their new home had been neglected for many years and needs a lot of work but the parents, Roger (Ron Livingston) and Carolyn (Lili Taylor) feels that it has great potential. The couple have five daughters who seem excited to give this new way of life a chance although the eldest, Andrea (Shanley Caswell) is a teenager and slightly less receptive to the idea. The only member of the household who has a problem is their dog who won't step foot in to this crumbling dwelling. This should have given them an indication that something is amiss but the family prepares to settle in to the house for the night.

In the morning, Carolyn is covered in odd bruises and the family is horrified to discover that their pet has been brutally killed. This is just the beginning of the nightmare that befalls the Perrons as a variety of strange and disturbing activities happen after all of the clocks stop at exactly 3:07 AM every day. The house fills with a rancid smell, a wall of family pictures come crashing to the ground, doors creak open on their own and some really creepy figures appear and vanish without warning.

It takes some time before the family no longer feels safe and finally flee in the middle of the night. But while holed up in a cheap hotel, the Perrons find that the unexplainable terror has followed them. Desperate to put an end to this once and for all, Carolyn seeks out the help of some professionals. Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farminga) Warren have spent years researching and exploring paranormal activity and demonic possession. With her ability to connect with the non-living, Lorraine determines that an evil spirit haunts their home and an exorcism will be the only way to get it completely out of their lives. The church would have to authorize this action, which could take weeks but the Warrens decide to perform the act themselves after this deadly force takes over a member of the family.

Most horror films today seem to only be about a high dead body count and creatively coming up with plenty of grisly ways to reach that goal. "The Conjuring" refreshingly doesn't have much bloodshed as the emphasis is on well-developed characters and psychological terror. Although the director, Wan is responsible for bringing to the world the deranged hardcore violence of the first "Saw" film, he shows great appreciation for the subtle style of the genre made popular by Hitchcock to the more edgier fare created in the 1970's like "The Exorcist" and "The Amityville Horror". Mr. Wan has modeled his '70's set film on these classics with the results making this just as thrilling and suspenseful but he has followed them just a little too closely. No surprises are to be found as the screen is filled with the dark, murky imagery as expected and the scares can come across as cheap and predictable however this is what we expect and this is what is effectively delivered.

The acting lifts this material as well with a top-notch cast on board. Ms Farminga and Mr. Wilson (who worked previously with the director on his other horror hit, "Insidious") are a great team and make the couple's unusual career path seem credible. The always captivating and sorely underused  Lili Taylor whose terrific work here is, without a doubt, the highlight of the film. The actress commands as a fierce mother lion who fights and risks her life to protect her family from this unforeseen evil. The only actor who seems out of place is Ms Taylor's screen husband. Mr Livingston, who is better known for his comedic performances in "Office Space" and TV's "Sex and The City", appears to be the head of the household but comes across as far too passive considering the danger facing his brood.

Regardless of whether you accept this story as fact or if you believe ghosts, demons and witches are actually possible or preposterous nonsense, "The Conjuring" is still one hell of a scary movie.