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The Conjuring (2013)

July 22nd, 2013 by unkle lancifer · 18 Comments

ALAN MOORE once said “ Art is, like magic, the science of manipulating symbols, words or images to achieve changes in consciousness.” I couldn’t agree more and have I got a spell for you. THE CONJURING is a scary, endearingly romanticized, elaboration of a some-say ‘true” haunting. I’ m not going to get wrapped up in the authenticity of the story because any tale, true or not, that inspires a movie as swell as this is all right by me. If things are grandly exaggerated, that’s fine. That’s what urban legends are fueled by, that’s what tall tales stand up on and that’s what fills every history book in every elementary school in America. Hyperbole is what storytelling is all about and we’re all guilty of tweaking the truth to make it shine a little brighter. If we can force ourselves to believe that Thanksgiving isn’t a shameful travesty then surely we can humor a harmless ghost story every once in a while too. Wow. Even in the heart of summer I hate on Thanksgiving!

JAMES WAN is a wonderful director. There I said it! I said the director of SAW is wonderful! He beat me down folks! I tried to resist but it’s over. INSIDIOUS was a left hook and THE CONJURING is a right hook and then some. I give up already! It’s not a fair fight when he has PATRICK WILSON on his side and I just have bitter, misplaced feelings of exclusion on mine. Anyway, our tale is about a nice family (The Perrons) who moves into a haunted-looking house and discover that it is indeed infested with invisible forces that yank them out of bed and according to at least one source, smell like farts. Who ya gonna call? Why notorious married supernatural specialists ED & LORRAINE WARREN (WILSON & VERA FARMIGA) of course! Now, I know there are some people who are not fans of the real life Warrens (Ed has passed away) and think of them as cons. I never met them so I can’t say. I just know they were really nice to the Smurl family in that excellent TV movie that scared the crap out me called THE HAUNTED (1991) so I’m going by that. Plus if WAN was of the mind to aggrandize the couple ,he sure casted well. On a side note, JAMES WAN, can you cover the Smurl haunting in the sequel pretty please? And can you release the movie on the same day as SMURFS 3 so that Box office Mojo is forced to write the headline SMURLS SMASH SMURFS!? Do it!

THE CONJURING is getting enthusiastic reviews, which is nice as most horror movies are pummeled for simply existing. I notice though that many critics feel the need to temper their kudos by saying it’s well done but a “typical” haunted house tale. Personally, I think it has a lot of merit outside of just being a well-oiled scare dispenser. The frights aren’t random jolts, they’re tethered to something solid and concrete. They’re not simply about being in dangerous situations with the unknowable they uniformly concern the worst fear of all, that harm might come to someone you care about and worse still, it may be your fault. Ed fears that Lorraine looses part of herself each time they involve themselves in such things, Lorraine frets that their daughter Judy is swinging between being neglected and endangered. The Father of the haunted family (RON LIVINGSTON) is anguished over putting his family in peril and the mother (LILI TAYLOR at her best) ends up personifying everybody’s worst fears by melding with a spirit who has killed her own offspring and has supernaturally strong-armed others to unthinkingly do the same.

I can totally relate. Let me tell you, for full horror pleasure it’s all about the empathy. People who don’t have it are missing a world of flavor! Sorry, I’m going to talk about myself again. But isn’t that the nice thing about blogs? You get that personal touch. Do you know what you get from magazines? Paper cuts! So as I was saying, we too recently moved into a haunted-looking house. When we got here I realized that the previous owners took all the screens from the windows. This freaked me out because we have five cats and I didn’t want them running away. They were all scared out of their minds and oh, God, what have I done to them? I started imaging the worst. The cats slipping between doors, getting hit by cars, freezing in the streets, lost. It got worse, I’d be hammering a nail and think, what if I dropped the hammer and it landed on a cat’s head? It got ridiculous. What if one crawled into the dryer? It got nuts. What if the cat choked on a discarded pistachio shell? My dreams were filled with drowning cats; cats on fire, cats crushed under poorly installed air conditioners. It was exhausting and I could not make it stop. The resolution of THE CONJURING that involves something as simple as recalling a moment of pure connection with those you care about resonated with me. Maybe focusing on that thought alone IS enough to expel the witch in my head.

Oh, I get it! I’m mentally ill! You know how folks with screws loose think the T.V. is talking to them? They see signs and coincidences everywhere and they get messages, lots and lots of messages? Well, that’s how I interact with movies. It’s been that way ever since I was a kid, the movies, especially the good ones, they tell me things! This one really went out of its way to whisper in my ear. The new house, the five kids, my favorite episode of THE BRADY BUNCH playing on the T.V., a ghost with the same name as my cat, a clown music box (mine plays “Send in the Clowns”), a porcelain lamb, a rooster painting, an embroidered owl, landscape T.V. trays folded against the wall- how is this not my home?

I found this movie frightening enough (WAN is gifted at sneaky distraction and leaving enough blank canvas for the viewer to paint themselves) but that really wasn’t the most important thing for me. For as much as THE CONJURING embellishes the dark it is depicting, it puts forth equal effort accentuating the light. Maybe that won’t please those who follow horror as an endurance sport but who cares about tourists? As corny as it may be, I love that this movie has a strong conscience. Remarkably it doesn’t stop at giving you distinct characters; it makes a point of concerning itself with the relationships between those characters. (Seriously, the sparkage between WILSON and FARMIGA is so dynamic somebody oughta shove them in a THE THIN MAN remake.) In real life, things did not end on such happy, tied in a bow terms. The Warrens were asked to leave the case and the house remained (and is said to still be) haunted. That’s the “true” story and who the hell needs it? I like this much better! Reality, take a lesson from fiction, ya lazy bore! I’ve never been one for happy endings in horror flicks but this one suited me just fine. I say sequel time! Send in the Smurls! Don’t bother…they’re here!

Tags: General Horror · Trauma-Mommas · Tykes in Trouble




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Amanda By Night
7 years ago

OMG! I can’t wait to see this! Love your review, and I’m so mad that I have to wait a few more days…

knobgobbler
knobgobbler
7 years ago

It’s silly but the whole angle of glorifying the real-life hucksters sort of bugs me. Probably because a friend of mine has been yammering on about them prior to this movie coming out.
I’m thinking I’d probably prefer the ‘true’ ending where they were sent packing.
Hopefully I can swallow my inner Randi long enough to enjoy this, because it does sound fun.

dasklyter
dasklyter
7 years ago

Found on Wikipedia:
“In June 2013, it was reported that New Line Cinema was already developing a sequel. Both Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson are signed on to reprise their roles for an additional film”.

Fingers crossed on the Smurl Haunting! I read the book many years ago and never forgot it. I think “The Haunted ” is one of the scariest made-for-television movies I have ever seen…the shapeless black thing gave me nightmares.

Taylor
7 years ago

knobgobbler, I’m fairly anti-real-life-Warrens, but I’m too pro-Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga to have let that taint the experience for myself…I really enjoyed the movie.

And I enjoyed it mostly because of the cast…Near the end I found myself thinking that I didn’t find the backstory of what was supposedly going on to be terribly interesting, but the chemistry among all of the actors (particularly Wilson and Farmiga) was so strong that I was into it just to watch them all interact.

And the *atmosphere*…I loved that filthy house soooo much. I was looking at that cracked, dirty faded-mustard paint on all of the walls and thinking, “Who would move into a place with their family of young kids and leave it looking so much like a haunted house??” Then I realized: me, that’s who. It was all so wonderfully grimy-70s. There’s a scene where nothing much happens (at first), in which someone stands casually at the kitchen sink at night, surrounded by old-school fixtures and old-school utensils and old-school tchotchkes, with crickets audible from outside, that made me flash back hard to being in my grandmother’s big spooky house in Florida in the early 80s…That small moment sealed the fact that this would be an eventual purchase and staple for late-night comfort viewing for me.

Taylor
7 years ago

SWEET, dasklyter! I guess thatmakes sense, since it’s already made double its production budget and word-of-mouth is probably going to be very positive.

There’s an oddly chronologically unsound tip toward Amityville at the end of this one…How weird and cool would it be if the sequel to this ended up being a second (better) Amityville Horror remake? Though I guess the period following the Lutzes leaving that house hasn’t been covered in any of the movies…This could be a jazzed up rendition of the Warren’s investigation, for the most part leaving the Lutzes out of it.

The Smurl haunting would be pretty great too…I’ve actually never seen The Haunted somehow, despite numerous recommendations, but I’ve read a lot about it.

Taylor
7 years ago

(To clarify: by “anti-real-life-Warrens,” I mean that I don’t take them at all seriously, certainly not as seriously as they’ve always taken themselves. I don’t necessarily think they’re mental, and I don’t think that they’ve actively and intentionally sought to scam anyone, I just think that they’ve perpetuated their own beliefs from within themselves a lot more than any real outside events have, which does more harm than good. But like I’ve always been able to do when reading about their exploits, I had no trouble buying the internal reality of this movie for the sake of entertainment.)

Taylor
7 years ago

Unk,

I’m still kind of amazed that the ’05 Amityville remake changed “Jody” from a demonic pig to one of the DeFeo kids. That was one of the weirdest and scariest elements of the book, I thought.

At least they didn’t change it to be the neighbor’s cat or something…

dasklyter
dasklyter
7 years ago

So, speaking of Lorraine Warren and the Lutz family…anybody besides me seen “My Amityville Horror”? It’s a documentary about the haunting and its lifelong effect on Daniel Lutz (the son) who was a young child at the time.
Was it real or not? How did his life turn out afterwards?
Spoiler: He’s pretty bitter…

disco.charlie
disco.charlie
7 years ago

So happy you are back and blogging again! My skies are filled with double rainbows once more.

Great review too!

I love, love, love this movie like Oprah loves Gayle. James Wan really seems to love horror films, and it shows. The cast is impeccable, and I’ll go anywhere Patrick Wilson, Lili Taylor, and Vera Farmiga lead. The scares, the tension, the music, the costumes, the pacing — it’s a modern horror classic, and it was a really fun movie-watching experience to boot!

Nothing groundbreaking to add here, but I’m thrilled to see it get some love and to know that there are horror directors out there who put care into crafting genuine scares and likable, sympathetic, human characters, and not the usual pudwhackers that populate most horror films (I’m looking at you, “Hold Your Breath”, “Grave Encounters 2”, “Blood Night: Mary Hatchet”, “Greystone Park”, and a million others).

“Insidious” is one of my favorites and I’m eagerly awaiting the sequel. “The Conjuring” is even more fun.

Taylor
7 years ago

Unk, I think the pitch for your Warrens Saturday morning cartoon would have to be something like, “It’s a stew of The Conjuring, Without A Clue, Inspector Gadget and Muppet Babies. Give us money!” I’d give you money.

dasklyter, I’ve almost ordered My Amityville Horror on demand a few times, but every time I’ve I’ve talked myself out of it. Is it actually any good?

I thought Insidious was a good time…Seems like Wan has been very busy, I hoping that Insidious 2 doesn’t show signs of fatigue. Maybe him taking a break from horror to do Fast & Furious 7 will be good for the Conjuring sequel…Let him recharge his scary batteries (assuming he’s going to be directing Conjuring Into Darkness*).

* I’ve personally retired the overly worn go-to sequel reference “Electric Boogaloo”

Taylor
7 years ago

If the Smurly-roo character fails to catch on with the public, maybe try an A&JH-LH spin-off show called The Smurlfs.

Karswell
Karswell
7 years ago

I’m ridiculously excited to see this. I’m still a little disappointed that it *isn’t* about the Smurl haunting – that’s what I’d hoped it would be when I first heard about it, because, oh man, that book is fantastic, even better than the movie – but it still looks hugely entertaining. The 70s aesthetic sounds super appealing too; I don’t know what it is about hideous earth tones that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside (although it’s probably due to having spent much of my childhood eating frozen peas and watching the Partridge Family in a faux-wood panelled basement). Anyway, I’ll be on pins and needles until I get to see ‘The Conjuring’!

One of my buddies, who is an even bigger ghost junkie than I am, refuses to even read a review or see a trailer for it in advance because he doesn’t want to ruin the surprise – I’m glad I’m too impatient for that, because this review was too much fun to read. Glad you’re back, Unk, and glad your cats are OK! I hope they’re happy in their new home.

mickster
mickster
7 years ago

I finally got to see the movie this weekend, and I loved it! I found it very scary and well-done. I am a huge Friday the 13th the Series fan, and the Warren’s special artifact room made me think of the vault in Curious Goods as well as the evil doll (Seriously, who on earth would buy such a thing!).

whitsbrain
whitsbrain
6 years ago

“The Conjuring” has been at the forefront of my movie watching thoughts at the moment, as the newly purchased Blu-Ray is sitting here waiting for my first re-watch.

The first time I saw it, I thought it was an excellent film with an almost grueling sense of dread and a few appropriately placed jump scares. “The Conjuring” is so successful because it builds suspense and holds it there, keeping you on the edge of your seat. It makes you cover your eyes, but not because of the gore (there’s almost none), but because you care about the fate of the characters.

This film packs a wallop, combining demonic possession, witchcraft, and a haunted house story. It also uses the “based on a true story” claim, which always adds to the creepiness factor.

James Wan’s direction is skillful. The best sequences are the smallest ones. The two that come to mind are when one of the children sees something behind a bedroom door. She wakes her sister who is sleeping in a bed across the room. The sister openly stares at the same door and sees nothing. Wan lets us stare at that very same door, allowing us the same opportunity to see what is lurking there. It’s a great example of the suspense that “The Conjuring” brings that other recent movies haven’t.

An example of a well executed jump scare occurs during the game of hide and seek that the mother plays with the youngest daughter. The clapping combined with silence and the maze of hallways make it a perfect moment.

I watched this with my 19-year old. This is the kid that said the “Evil Dead” remake wasn’t scary. I assumed (wrongly) that because it was gory, it would be scary to him. Wrong! After we watched “The Conjuring”, he said it was the scariest movie he’d ever seen. I asked him how that could be given all hype I’d seen about how the new “Evil Dead” was so disturbing. He replied that the “Evil Dead” was gory and shocking but not scary at all, while “The Conjuring” was frightening even with zero gore. This is exactly why Horror movies lost their way and why the term “torture porn” is so appropriate. I say, thanks to directors like James Wan, scary is beginning to trump gory once again. Maybe, as Richard Matheson pointed out, we should use the term “Terror” and not “Horror” for films like “The Conjuring”.