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THE CONJURING (review)

conjuring_ver2THE CONJURING
Written by Chad Hayes and Carey Hayes
Directed by James Wan
Starring Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson and Lili Taylor
 

Clap. Clap.

A mother (Lili Taylor), blindfolded, slowly walks around the upper floor of her family’s Rhode Island Farmhouse, looking for her daughter in a game of “Hide and Clap”. “Second clap!” she calls. Her daughter claps. She follows the sound into her eldest daughter’s bedroom. She stands silently. Slowly the doors of the wardrobe creak open. “Third clap!” the mother calls. A pair of hands slide out of the wardrobe. They clap. This is not her daughter. This is James Wan’s THE CONJURING.

THE CONJURING marks Wan’s fifth film since his 2004 debut SAW. In this film, Wan follows self-described demonologists, Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga), as they struggle with one of their most difficult cases, that of the Perron family. The Perron’s initially experience the common haunted house symptoms: strange sounds, doors closing on their own, and bruises appearing on their arms and legs. But it isn’t until about forty minutes into the near two-hour running time that the true terror actually begins. The Perron’s middle daughter, Christine (Joey King), is awoken after feeling something pulling her leg. She wakes up her sister, whom she shares a room with, and tells her that she sees someone standing next to the bedroom door. The camera pans to the bedroom door but there is no one there. This scene is completely terrifying because Wan knows that, in the right moment, what we don’t see can be far more frightening than what we do.

new-conjuring-trailer

One of the film’s strongest components is its actors. THE CONJURING truly belongs to the female leads, Farmiga and Taylor, who greatly outshine their male counterparts, Wilson and Ron Livingston. Farmiga is already known to be a fantastic actress, garnering an Oscar nomination for UP IN THE AIR, but surprisingly Lili Taylor, who is 46, is still relatively unknown to mainstream audiences. Her performance in this film is simply amazing. She gives herself over emotionally and physically to the roll, becoming childish as she plays the terrifying game of “hide and clap” with her children, and becoming absolutely petrified in a scene where she is locked in the basement. Taylor is excruciatingly convincing in a role that requires just that.

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The film’s cinematography also contributes to the haunting atmosphere as cinematographer, John Leonetti (INSIDIOUS) uses tracking shots to follow the characters as they run through the house. The camera moves both fast and slowly, even turning upside down in some sequences, further contributing to the film’s jarring impact.

Ultimately Wan’s THE CONJURING is an outstanding horror film; a film so scary that it was given an R-rating solely for “sequences of disturbing violence and terror”. It is a vast improvement over the disappointing horror films of the past couple of years and, even though it takes a slight dip in its final act, THE CONJURING will continue to please and horrify for years to come.

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frontTHE CONJURING – BLU-RAY REVIEW

Now available on Blu-ray and DVD, THE CONJURING is not a film you want to miss. The presentation on the disc is fantastic. Forget about the fact that it’s a near perfect horror film; it also looks and sounds utterly fantastic. The dusty whites, earth tones, and shadows look flawless and the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround sound track is even better than the picture. You’ll hear those claps behind you, just like Lili Taylor does in the film, and I guarantee you’ll take a quick look to make sure there’s actually no one there. The special features are rather limited, containing only two short featurettes and one short behind the scenes look.  The first featurette is called “Face-to-Face with Terror”. It features interviews with the real Perron family, and Lorraine Warren herself, on whom the film is based. The interviews are very interesting and show us that, according to the Perrons, many of the film’s events actually happened. With only six minutes though, you will be left wanting more. The second featurette is called “A Life in Demonology”, running at approximately fifteen minutes. This bit also features interviews with Warren, as she talks about her life as a clairvoyant demonologist with her late husband, Ed. Interviews with director James Wan and others are also included. It is an interesting look at the lives of Ed and Lorraine, but it doesn’t add much to the story behind the film. The final feature is an eight minute making-of piece, called “Scaring the ‘@$*%’ Out of You”. It’s a fairly standard making-of piece, featuring interviews with the director, producers, and cast members, Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson. Though there’s not much in the special features, it’s still worth buying this wonderful film for the stunning Blu-ray transfer.

Your turn!

How many sheep would you give The Conjuring?

One Comment

  1. Great review Matthew – well done

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