Sunday, July 21, 2013

Moonlight Movie Reviews - The Conjuring

The Exorcist, Rosemary's Baby, The Amityville Horror, The Omen, Carrie, The Shining, and now...


Real horror is back, folks!

A little while back, my faith in horror films was renewed by two surprise films that totally hit the mark for me, "Insidious" and "The Cabin in the Woods". I highly recommend those two, but neither prepared me for what I saw in theaters last night, a film that reminded me of the truly amazing horror films of the 1960's, 70's and very early 80's; a little film called, "The Conjuring".

I can't rave enough about this movie. You should seriously stop reading this right now and go out and see it. Finish reading when you get back. It is that awesome! Besides, to describe the plot much at all will require giving A LITTLE away at least...

This film, allegedly based on true events (I'd call them mostly true, since some aspects definitely weren't; Don't worry, the "true" version still includes all the scary, supernatural stuff), is the story of two families really. The first family is Roger Perron, his wife Carolyn, and their 5 (that's right, 5) young daughters. The other family is that of acclaimed paranormal researchers Ed and Lorraine Warren, and includes their young daughter as well. The film follows the most compelling haunting investigation the Warrens ever did, in 1971, of the Perron family's new home, which actually wasn't new at all, and the site of some very horrific tragedies. The very old, Rhode Island house is haunted by many spirits, but also by a demonic witch who sacrificed her own newborn to Satan before hanging herself from a tree in his honor, and who continued to cause the deaths of other children on the property afterward by possessing their mothers and causing them to kill. Shortly after the Perron family moved into the old home, they were plagued by horrific sites and sounds, and even violent acts from the supernatural entities sharing the house with them. Things progressively got worse. Meanwhile, the Warrens, Ed and Lorraine, were on the lecture circuit and crossed paths with the Perrons. The Perrons were able to convince them to help, despite the fact that the Warrens were cautious and weary from a recent, particularly difficult case involving an exorcism. It did not leave Lorraine, the clairvoyant of the pair, in the best condition to start up on something new and potentially even more challenging, and it certainly left Ed in deep concern for her safety. It was their concern for the Perrons' children that caused them to take the case, a case that was so extreme the families never exposed it publicly until now.

That's all I'll say about the plot, except to add that the doll being used so much in the advertising is NOT a huge part of the central story. It is touched upon here and there, but it's actually a remnant from a previous case. It seems the Warrens have quite the supernatural museum. It's sort of like that antique shop from "Friday the 13th the Series," only this place is REAL. Also worth noting, the REAL LIFE version of the doll in this film is far less sinister looking, yet perhaps far more creepy because of it. If I was to fault the film for anything, I'd say the look of that doll was a bit over the top, but in reality, the doll was a large but quite standard Raggedy Ann doll. So, there you have it. Stop worrying about the creepy doll in this movie. It's not REALLY about the doll, though they make SOME use of it.

Aside from the over the top design of the doll, which really only seemed to bug ME (not much though), I don't think there's anything negative I could say about this film, so get ready for the raving. You know a movie is good when I was paying close attention, despite the fact that two blonde goddesses were sitting one seat away from me and an Alamo Drafthouse pizza was sitting right in front of me. And I was ravenous after a long day at work. I was so hungry, I could have eaten those two blondes sitting next to me. He he. Anyways,...

So, where do I start? I could sum it up and say this movie is just excellent, go see it! Most people are raving about how scary it is. Yeah, it's scary. I don't find too much very scary in movies anymore though. I suppose I've gotten desensitized. This one has quite the horrific tale behind it though, and it does make you jump in the best way. However, what really got me was the passionate acting and storytelling. This film was just phenomenally well done in every regard, including and especially those crucial and often forgotten ones. The most important thing about this, to me, was the treatment of the Warrens, whom most fans of parapsychology have a great deal of respect for and interest in. They were truly groundbreakers, and they are just such a sweet love story too. Portrayed by Vera Famiga (of one of my current fave shows, Bates Motel) and Patrick Wilson (from Insidious and its soon to be released sequel), the chemistry between these two is FANTASTIC. It's the core of this film to me. This is the Warrens' movie. Not to put down anyone else in it. Everyone is excellent. It is hard to gauge the chemistry between the other couple, the tormented Perrons, Roger and Carolyn, portrayed by Ron Livingston (Office Space) and Lili Taylor (The Haunting). Some have commented that there didn't seem to be much. I found it more than serviceable though, as the two were definitely outstanding on an individual level. Ron Livingston has an amazing talent for drawing the viewer's sympathy with his expressions, and Lili Taylor actually was likeable here, even after years of bad feelings towards her as the result of seeing "The Haunting".

A beautiful job is done of portraying the 1970's setting, establishing the characters and tone, and getting us, the audience involved in everything that is happening. Everything is treated well and with the highest respect. There's nothing in this that isn't amazing in some way. If there's anything lacking, perhaps it's some unforgettable theme music like Tubular Bells from The Exorcist. But the music is quite good, even if I don't have some creepy, catchy tune running through my head right now. And maybe there was just too much else to pay attention to. Good film music stays in the background, they say. And, thankfully it wasn't like some indie movies I've seen lately, where you can't hear the movie for the music. No, if this movie knew anything, it was subtlety, which paid off most when it came to the horror scenes.

Yes, most importantly, what little CGI is used in this modern horror release, it is barely noticeable! This film uses mostly practical movie magic, and it is soooo effective. Much moreso than CGI. The horrors in this film are real. They're terrifying, solid ghosts, there one second, gone the next. Things get thrown and fly about, and it all looks amazing. It's so cleverly done, too! Yes, there's an exorcism in the climax, and no, it does not look like a copy of the one from "The Exorcist"! Not at all! And, most importantly, the final shot of the film gives the impression they might go for a cheap jump scare in the last second. Nope, they never did! They didn't ruin it in the last seconds, like so many films have before it. They were smart to the end and ended up making a film that is practically perfect! Congratulations to direct James Wan. With the Insidious films and Saw under his belt too, he's definitely becoming a fave director of mine!

I could probably go on just saying, "this was fantastic, that was amazing, blah, blah, blah....,". It really was an awesome film. I'm so happy with it and very happy for the Warrens to be getting this sort of recognition. A shame Ed was not able to see it. This film is really a masterpiece of its genre, and it fits right in with the classics I mentioned much earlier in this review. That doesn't happen too often anymore. You don't even see GREAT horror films very often these days. Occasionally, but very rarely. This movie is the best since the old days though. It really does remind one of Amityville and The Exorcist. It might not be QUITE as brooding and tension building as those old ones can be, but it's pretty darn close. I HIGHLY recommend it.

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