To be perfectly honest, this would not be my first choice on how to start Zander’s Movie Corner, ideally I would start this thread with a magnum opus by Kubrick, or PTA, or Wes, or an expansive theory about Forrest Gump and its allegorical connections to the American Dream and a lost generation; however, I just watched The Conjuring (2013), directed by James Wan, and felt compelled to share my thoughts. The movie is a highly fictionalized story from the vaults of world renowned ‘demonologists, paranormal investigators, ghost hunters, and wackos’ to paraphrase the movie versions of Ed and Lorraine Warren. Under normal rules, this movie is still under spoiler alert status, but I think that a sequel, which came out June 10th, negates the usual rules; so, I will continue unimpeded.
First things first, I enjoyed the movie. This is something that I do not take lightly, granting a movie a positive response. In fact, I normally like to eviscerate movies for the sake of doing it, a reason that my dad hates going to movies with me, but I have only a few complaints about The Conjuring, which hails from a genre that is usually replete with laughable missteps and cliches. Wan avoided the majority of these pitfalls or worked around them in such a way that they did not read immediately as what they were. The jump scares were few and far between and the most cliche of all of them was spoiled by a trailer for the movie, which lightened the offense. Now, there are many people who value these sort of thrills, but I equate their value to that of a fart joke in comedy. Maybe that makes me as jaded as Louie working the road in season 5, but I do consider movies an art form and I prefer them to be clever rather than easy. To that end, Wan is doing something clever in this film. There is a sort of stoicism to the Warrens that carries throughout the film that could seem like poor acting to some, but this is a conscious choice made by Wan, Patrick Wilson, and Vera Farmiga, who play Ed and Lorraine, respectively. The paranormal is the Warrens business and as such they must approach each case with skepticism, a fact made evident by a short scene early in the film. Lucky for the Perrons, the terrorized family, their horror is convincing from the start.
The movie progresses as this type of film normally does with increasingly severe events, but Wong shows his cleverness again. First, he uses abutting handy cam and gyro-stabilized shots at several opportune moments to disorient the viewer and lend credence to the terror and paranormal nature of the action. There are a couple smooth shots that stuck out as particularly wonderful: one where Lorraine leaves the cellar and walks out the front door during a paranormal event, seen with an arcing upside-down ceiling shot, and another of the Warrens’ daughter walking out of her room and down the stairs. Both scenes heightened the tension with their placidity and removed feel. Second, he takes a moment in the morning after the Warrens, their tech assistant, and local cop bodyguard/unbiased witness begin their investigation and have their first encounter to slow things down. The family sit down for a relaxing pancake breakfast and the father admits that the mere presence of the Warrens eases their weary minds. Wong brightens the colors and softens the lines to give the scene an almost dreamlike quality. In a lot of ways, it reminds me of the rainfall scene from Ridley Scott in Alien in tone; it allows the characters to breathe for a moment while the viewers brace for the oncoming escalation, and escalate it does. In the end, there is the exorcism and resolution that the genre dictates and the audience anticipates.
Now, as I said, the movie was not without flaw. There was a sloppy scene where they seemed to remember that the story was set in the 70’s and tried to make it abundantly clear. They actually used the words “far out” and “groovy” within 5 seconds of one another without anyone sounding like they are from the 70’s besides that. It was a laughable ploy that felt particularly wooden. The other memorable mistake/annoyance was the device for explaining the entity haunting the house. Early in the movie, the Warrens state that a demon is an inhuman spirit that has never walked the earth and that demons are the only things that can possess a human is a demon, not a ghost. Then, they proceed to explain that the entity haunting the house was a woman who worshiped the devil and sacrificed her baby before cursing anyone who takes her land and committing suicide by hanging herself, meaning she is a ghost. So, by the logic expounded in the beginning, she should not be able to possess humans because she is a ghost, not a demon, but the movie hinges on her having possessed previous women to kill their children and possessing the mother of the Perron family to do the same. They offered up some vague defense scattered throughout the movie about her being a witch and the sacrifice of “God’s most wonderful gift,” a child, granting her some favor with the devil, meaning – this is my conclusion, not explicitly stated in the movie – that she was turned into a demon by the devil as reward. That is the best that I can figure it.
In the end, the movie was a success. I was engrossed and enjoyed my time watching the film. Now, it does not rise to the level of re-watchable, but I do not feel as though I wasted nearly two hours of my life, either. Before I hand out my numeric verdict, a quick word about my ranking policy: I use a twenty point system because 5 is too broad, 10 ends up with lots of halves thrown in to make the rating more precise, and 100 takes too much works, so I settled on a 20 point system. So, without further ado, I think that, in total, 15/20 is a very fair score for this film. Congratulations Mr. Wong , on a movie you premiered three years ago.
What are your thoughts on The Conjuring? Let us know in the comments below what your thoughts are.
If you are looking to add The Conjuring to your movie library, you can follow this link to the iTunes store to purchase the movie.
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