|Lili Taylor in THE CONJURING|
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
2013, 112 minutes
Rated R for sequences of disturbing violence and terror
Review by Joshua Handler
Review by Joshua Handler
Reportedly too scary for the MPAA to grant this movie a PG-13, James Wan's The Conjuring sure is terrifying, but is held back from greatness by a fairly generic script. But, only calling out this movie's faults would give the impression that this is not a good horror film. It is. James Wan (Saw, Insidious) does a very good job directing this movie, realizing that silence and suggestion are far scarier than gore. If you look at the most effective horror movies of the past like Jaws, Psycho, and Halloween, or even a great new horror film like Paranormal Activity, they all rely on suggestion and slow build-ups of tension. In an obvious homage to films like these, Wan creates a horror film that is actually scary. People should take note of how he creates suspense.
The film is "based on the true story" of a couple (Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor) and their family who move into a possessed house and eventually call paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, respectively) to come in and rid the house of the demon.
The suspense sequences in The Conjuring are sustained and very drawn out, putting the audience on edge before finally letting everything loose. Wan relies heavily on simple household sounds like door slams or floorboards creaking to generate scares. This works frighteningly well, as his timing is spot-on. That being said, we have all seen tricks like these used before. There is very little that we haven't seen. In essence, this is just a really well-made haunted house movie. I am very excited to see what Wan does next, as he proves with The Conjuring that he has the directing chops to pull off a really good horror movie. A little more restraint could have been used with this movie (in some sequences the camera just cannot stop moving frenetically in all directions), but I was thoroughly impressed by the way Wan handled this material. The cinematography by John R. Leonetti is also very good.
The exposition scenes in this movie are uninteresting, as is the overall story. Without Wan's superb direction, this movie would have been generic and uninteresting. There is little mystery and intrigue. All of the drive comes from the suspense sequences.
The acting in The Conjuring is surprisingly strong. The cast all turn in solid performances, particularly Farmiga. Farmiga has an otherworldly presence to her that is at times simultaneously eerie and calming. I am always impressed by Farmiga and would love to see her in more movies. Taylor's performance is also quite strong. It is rare to find good acting in a horror movie and it was thus a breath of fresh air to find it here.
The lack of logic lapses in The Conjuring is refreshing. Most horror movies that I've seen over the past few years have had some dumb logic lapses, yet The Conjuring doesn't, which makes the movie more believable and less irritating than other horror movies.
Overall, The Conjuring may not be as original as it could have been, but it is incredibly scary and will be intense enough to cause some heart attacks. Wan's understanding of this material is impressive. This movie should prove to be a massive success with audiences everywhere. I love a good horror movie, yet am not normally impressed by many of the ones released. The Conjuring, though, did the trick.