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7.25 out of 10
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8.75 out of 10
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10.0 out of 10
Delivery Man movie
6.75 out of 10
8.25 out of 10

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Conjuring


Built on Remains

8.5 out of 10 | Movie and DVD

Rated: R Sequences of disturbing violence and terror
Release Date: July 19, 2013
Runtime: 1 hour 51 minutes

Director: James Wan
Writers: Chad Hayes, Carey Hayes
Cast: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Lili Taylor, Ron Livingston, Shanley Caswell, Hayley McFarland, Joey King, Mackenzie Foy

SYNOPSIS:  Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren work to help a family terrorized by a dark presence in their farmhouse. Forced to confront a powerful entity, the Warrens find themselves caught in the most terrifying case of their lives.

REVIEW: Director James Wan, helmer of Saw and Insidious, takes a step back in time with a horror film right out of the 1970s. A period flick centering around Harrisville, Rhode Island in 1971, The Conjuring is based on the real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. Written by twins Chad and Carey Hayes (Whiteout, House of Wax), The Conjuring targets a tightly-knit family facing strange occurrences in an old house.

Ed (Patrick Wilson, Young Adult) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga, Safe House) are a married couple with an interesting occupation. He is demonologies and she is a clairvoyant. Together they are paranormal investigators operating in the northeast. In 1971, Ed and Lorraine take on a case where a family with five daughters have moved into a Rhode Island home and are experiencing supernatural events. The mother Caroline Perron (Lili Taylor, The Cold Lands) has bruises appearing on her body, the youngest daughter finds a jack-in-the-box and an invisible friend named Rory. Another daughter sleep walks, bumping into the same wardrobe night after night. One smells rotten meat, while another gets her leg pulled during her sleep. The Warren's and their team investigate to collect enough evidence to send to the Catholic Church to approve an exorcism. But the exorcism may be too late as the family is taken to the edge of their sanity and willpower.

Director Wan takes the 40-year-old motif in the horror genre and gives it a modern take. Not relying on special effects, Wan relies on practical scares more in tune with films like the original The Haunting and The Amityville Horror. He does use a heavy dose of warbling noise in the soundtrack and music to set the tone for chills and thrills. In the setting of 1971 Rhode Island, the setting of an old rickety house is perfect for opportunities to make you scream out loud. From a game of hide and clap, to a lone mother down into the basement stairs with nearly extinguished matches, this film does justice and pays homage to a genre most currently saturated with visual spectacles.

What happens when a family of seven buy a Harrisville, Rhode Island property from a bank auction? In this case, the result is a family slowly terrorized by an ancient dark force which has been sucking souls for over 100 years. No different than today, the family has sunk all of their savings into the house and the resulting repairs, only to realize that if they wanted to leave their demon infested home they really have no practical place to go. Even the upcoming Poltergeist remake settles their story around a family who moves into an outdated suburban property that will end up being as haunted as it was in the original film.

Wan makes great use of the house's architecture, using perfectly aligned doors to draw in unwitting victims to a demonic oppressed basement. Even the opening scene of the film with a doll named Annabelle sets the tone for a very creepy experience. The film flattens out a little bit as characters come in and establish themselves while they move into the house, but the creeks, screeches and knocking quickly serve to ramp up a perfect haunting. We do see the demonic presence, eventually, but the film does a great job of building up tension with only wisps of what the family is encountering.

The cast is realistic and down to earth, Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga perfect in the roles as Ed and Lorraine Warren. They add credibility to the Warren's occupation of paranormal investigation that usually draws skeptics in droves. Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor, as well as all of the phenomenal young actresses that play the Perron daughters, also lend an air of believability to the tale.

A true throwback to 70s horror, The Conjuring is a well-made version to earlier works such as The Exorcist, The Haunting or The Amityville Horror. Today's audience will never appreciate those earlier films as much as audiences who watch them when they originally presented on the big screen in that era. But Wan does a good job in re-creating a film type using tried-and-true techniques of inferred scariness. Even the titles cards at the beginning of the film seem like something right out of a William Blatty novel cover. Some moviegoers may think the concept is out of date with the director's use of practical effects for the most part. But it does well enough to illicit a couple screams in the darkened theater.

The Conjuring is a director's passion project put on film in a way that is true to the time
 the true story took place. If you're looking for a downright suspenseful time that will leave you gripping the edge of your seats, The Conjuring may be just what the paranormal Investigators ordered.

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