Finding a good horror film this year, is like trying to find a rehab facility that Lindsay Lohan hasn't occupied yet. Horrible joke, I know..I think. By my count, I've only enjoyed three films from the horror genre in, Evil Dead, Mama and V/H/S 2, this year. So when people started raving that The Conjuring was the best horror to hit theaters this year, it quipped my interest. I've loved watching Vera Farmiga in the inaugural season of Bates Motel. Patrick Wilson was great in Watchmen and Insidious, while Insidious: Chapter 2, looks like a decent follow-up. Not to mention, I'll give anything with the great Ron Livingston in it a chance. Well maybe not anything, but I still have a soft spot in my heart for Office Space. But this is The Conjuring and James Wan has crafted a very good film. Made for a modern audience that has seen all the things this genre has to offer.
The Conjuring follows the story of a family of seven who move into an old farm house in 1971. Carolyn and Roger Perron (Lili Taylor and Ron Livingston), along side their daughters Andrea, Nancy, Christine, Cindy and April (Shanley Caswell, Hayley MacFarland, Joey King, Mackenzie Foy and Kyla Deaver), are ready to start their lives fresh here. Strange things start happening the day after they move in. They find a mysterious bruise on Carolyn and their pet dog dead in the bushes. One night as Roger is away in Florida for work, Carolyn is locked in basement as an elderly, vengeful spirit attacks her daughters. This prompts Carolyn to get in contact with Ed and Loraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga), a couple famous for their paranormal investigations. After an initial walk through of the house, they conclude that an exorcism may be necessary. First though, they have to call it in, provide ample evidence and get permission from the Catholic Church. Later, while researching the home, they find out that house belonged to a woman, Bathsheba. In 1863 she tried to sacrifice her children to the devil. Culminating in killing herself, whilst cursing anyone who claimed her land. The Warren family and their crew must use all of their previous experience in the paranormal field, to help save this family from the grips of an immensely evil paranormal entity.
This movie is through and through a horror. It relies on cliches at times, jump scares and only a satisfactory story. But this didn't keep me from enjoying it highly. James Wan has enthralled me with yet another film I can get behind. I'm a sucker for SAW and I loved Insidious. This feels a little different, due to the fact that it's based, at least partially, on true events. While the writing is nothing to write home about, Wan brings it to life so well. It helps that they gave him, what looks like a genuine place from the 70s to work with. It also helps a ton with the style and look, that the atmosphere created, takes on a life of its own. Like I said, it relies on a lot of horror cliches and the like, but it doesn't make it any less creepy. Especially any scenes revolving around the basement of the house. There's jump scares, and at points, what can be, campy music. But like I'll keep reiterating, this is chilling. Combine the direction from Wan with the capable story, and the good acting, and it's easier to forgive the shortcomings of this. Speaking of all those things, I still liked the music and score. It's campy at times sure, but it builds the tension well when needs be. Atmosphere is key in any movie, but you really have to give a little extra when setting up the scary, everyone will get sucked in. The music highly helps with this and it reminds me a lot of Insidious in a lot ways. By the way, the score for that movie is amazing.
Getting back on track I want to point out the two people who really carried this movie well, and that's Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson. They are the cornerstones of this movies as The Warrens, and they were perfectly casted in these roles. I keep mentioning Insidious, but it's so easy to when the star and director from it, hit another home run, with a separate film. Patrick Wilson is such a presence on screen in a film like this, and really carries any scene that he's in. Vera Farmiga needs to be mentioned as well be cause there's no one-two-punch without her being in top form. We all knew she could act, from her roles in The Departed and Up In The Air. but I never expected her to transition so well into horror (this) and suspense/horror (Bates Motel). Like Wilson, especially in their scenes together, helped command the screen. It also helps solidify The Warrens as the driving force of the story. Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor were pretty good as the worried and affected parents. While the kids weren't too much of a detraction overall either. This is a horror film, and people always want to know if it's scary. I would answer that with a yes. But caveat it with, it's more creepy and haunting, than pure terror. From the soundtrack, to the overall story, this is one that you can immerse yourself in. I've mentioned the jump scares, and there are a few throughout. But, like I've been saying, the direction from Wan makes everything just plain creepy. Even if it's something you'd normally groan at. I like a movie that can stick with you. This is one that is pretty creepy, especially if you look at it past face value.
The Conjuring is one of the few horror films I'd recommend from this year. At almost two hours this is more than your average horror. It's got the meat and the acting talent to warrant it though. Not to mention the scares are there, it's creepy and the direction is fantastic. I can understand why someone would not like this, but I'd defend it to anyone claiming that this is bad. This is a well made horror, in an age where less than stellar ones are overly praised. James Wan's direction took what could've been horribly mediocre, and turned it into one of the best horror films of this year.