Tuesday, 6 August 2013

The Conjuring Review



Returning this year with two movies, The Conjuring is the first of James Wan’s releases which is followed by Insidious: Chapter 2 on September, Friday the 13th. This isn’t written by Wan’s usual writer, Leigh Whannell, but instead by Chad and Cary Hayes. What’s so hateful and spine-chilling about this case is it has apparently been kept secret until now as well as the fervent beliefs of the Warren and Perron family of things not going bump in the night, but bang, crash, clap and with a whisper thrown in for good luck. After Wan’s arrival with Saw, his career remained relatively independent until Insidious – and now this – put him on the map. He’s a director who has perfected his technique, his visuals, since Dead Silence which you can see in this has have reached shit-your-pants good.
 
Based on the true events of Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) of a case that disturbed them so greatly that they never spoke out about it. Until now. It’s about the poor Perron family who suffered at the hands of haunting in their home. Carolyn (Lili Taylor) and Roger (Ron Livingston) are the parents of five daughters who move from the hustling-bustling city to dry leaves bustling around that surround their house in the middle of nowhere. Using its location, its isolation as well its vastness to invoke a sense of claustrophobic ineluctability from the terror that will most certainly get you squirming and screaming. It all starts with a simple game. A game that makes a clap a devastating sound.
 
The performances here are what work the best in the film because they elevate this to something better than if it was lead by bad or forgettable actors. Having these four mains played by who they are really brings an odd sense of reality to it thanks to the way that they can make a scream, a bump, a turn of the head something to really be terrified of. Everything they do seems genuine which is one of the reasons that the performances matter in this film. It’s reviving all of the tropes, the givens, the norms of the haunted house genre; there’s of course a door banging in the night but it hasn’t been this effective for long time. James Wan has worked hard on his technique to guarantee a fright or at least an unease in your seat. Unfortunately he doesn’t explore some characters enough with five daughters to focus on, some do slip through the cracks – Andrea (Shanley Caswell) seems she could have been a bigger character with subplots started but never finished.
 
It’s often said that the horror film contained a palpable sense of dread and for this it’s true. With every lingering camera, with every sound cleverly added in, there’s a huge feeling of how wrong it’s going to go. It’s an untuned piano playing a creepy melody that builds and builds in its perfect rhythm to a tautly paced effective haunted house horror without being too homogenised. As the melody becomes more frantic yet sombre, the camerawork makes the Perron house feel overwhelmingly large, giving off the vibe of futile urgency when sprinting around as well as threatening angles and looming, consuming shadows everywhere.  Dreading every turn in the house because at any point the doors can come to life which is rarely as magical as when things like Pinocchio come to life.
 
It may be a cliché too many in a clunky script that suffers from cheesy sentimentality but it is scary. One of the oddest parts about this is it’s actually funny. It has some genuine giggles to uplift from the evil that will befall soon. Credits to the writers for creating fully formed characters and for writing some genuine scares from the exhausted sub-genre. Somehow they’ve managed to take all the tropes and add a real terror to them because reflections, doors, toys and anything else now have that sense of dread again. Mistrusting objects is back on the agenda. Never will waking up at 3:07am be normal. Wan has taken an enervated genre and given it an elixir to completely rejuvenate it into a breath of foul smelling air. You may not need originality but you need execution. The Conjuring thrives from trying to make the familiarities scary once again. Its relentlessness revels in fear. This combines old and new to make an affecting, long-lasting, panic inducing exhilarating ride that will have you sprinting out of the house at any draft that bangs your door. The haunted house is back.

★★★★½