Directed by: James Wan
Screenplay by: Chad Hayes, Carey W. Hayes
Starring: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Lili Taylor, Ron Livingston
Back in the day, I watched a ton of horror movies. “Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” “Halloween,” “Saw”- you name it, I watched it. For whatever reason, over the years I moved away from the genre. It was not intentional; we just drifted apart.
So, when I decided to watch “The Conjuring” on Netflix a few days ago, I was pretty excited. Time made me a born-again horror novice, and that is probably why I enjoyed this movie so much.
Set in 1970, self-proclaimed demonologists Lorraine and Ed Warren (Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson) are giving lectures on their paranormal investigations and debunking the occasional haunting in New England. After a particularly traumatizing exorcism case, Ed and Lorraine are taking it easy, enjoying time with their daughter, and toying with the idea of writing a book.
Right around the same time, Roger and Carolyn Perron (Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor) move into an old farmhouse with their five daughters for a fresh start in a new town. After a brief period of euphoria in their new home, things start to.. happen. After a series of violent assaults by unknown forces, Carolyn tracks down the Warrens for help. Together, they team up to rid the house (and themselves) of the demonic infestation.
The casting of the Perron family was spot on. Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor are just so good at playing genuinely nice people. It really adds to the suspense because it is hard to watch bad things happen them. The child actors who play their daughters bicker like champions throughout the whole thing, which really helps sell the fact that they are supposed to be siblings. Had their characters been less likable, I don’t think I would have enjoyed the movie as much.
Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson were solid choices for the roles of Ed and Lorraine, but their relationship dynamic on screen is a bit too cute for my taste. Some of the romantic lines between the two of them would be better suited for a romantic comedy rather than a horror film. That is not to say it isn’t an accurate portrayal of the real-life couple, but I think that aspect is annoying.
The multi-generational ghost presence in this film is like peeling back the layers of a haunted onion. The wide variety of spirits includes ghostly children, maimed maids, and Satan worshipers that just won’t quit, and they are all from different eras. The makeup and set pieces in this film are terrifying and will surely taint my dreams for weeks to come.
Something that takes away from the film is a chunk of the dialogue. Sibling writers Chad and Carey Hayes wrote a truly disturbing story, but the lackluster script gets in the way. One example of this is the initial meeting between the Warrens and the Perrons. Ed Warren is so casual about the possibility of a demonic presence in the house, he might as well be discussing the crown moldings or rusted pipes: “Oh yeah? Comes in threes? Stops at dawn?” or “A bad smell may suggest some demonic activity in the house.” And Roger Perron actually says the words, “You know, it’s the darndest thing; these birds keep flying into the house and breaking their necks.” Well, shucks Roger! That is a pickle. Other than a bit of oddly placed Brady Bunch dialogue, the rest of the film is pretty well done. The thing about horror movies is you rarely notice when the script is great, but you ALWAYS notice when it is terrible.
General audiences have a love-hate relationship with horror films, but “The Conjuring” is reminiscent of classics like “The Exorcist” and “Poltergeists,” which serves this production well. This film is chocked full of the usual horror fare such as doors slamming unexpectedly, other-worldly feet pulling, and moving antique furniture. Wan has taken all of my favorite things from old horror films and stuffed them into this movie. By adding a handful of likable actors to the mix, he has created quite a show.
After my long hiatus from watching horror flicks, it was refreshing to do some good old-fashioned screaming at my TV. DONT GO IN THERE! DONT LOOK UNDER THAT! WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING, KID? While some might roll their eyes at the regurgitated scare tactics, I think the mixed bag of classic horror elements is entertaining. Then again, I’m not watching a movie from this genre every weekend. If that were the case, then this review might be different.
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