Sunday, July 21, 2013

'Conjuring' Fear

Malaysian-born, Australian-raised director James Wan is a rising star in the horror genre.  The virtually unknown director who started the 'Saw' franchise in 2004 had come a long way since, steadily evolving as a 'master of horror' and setting himself apart from other schlocky directors (or hacks) in a crowded genre by going back to classic old school horror filmmaking of the '70's.  He's gotten progressively better with each directorial effort and his latest, 'The Conjuring,' is not only his best movie to date but also the most well crafted and effective horror movie I've seen in quite some time.
I admit, I'm a bit of a gorehound.  But sometimes I get jaded with all the gratuitous in-your-face graphic violence in movies like 'Evil Dead' or 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' and long for something more subtle along the lines of 'The Sixth Sense' and 'The Others.'  'The Conjuring' falls into this latter category  and is scary as hell to boot.  Based on the true story of the Perrons and the strange events which occurred in their Rhode Island home in 1971, and the paranormal investigating couple (the Warrens) who tried to help them, the movie is a haunted house story with elements from 'The Exorcist' and 'Paranormal Activity' plus a dash of 'Ghost Hunters,' but without the gimmicky shaky-cam and 'docudrama' tropes popular today.  Instead, James Wan utilized old school methods such as pacing, mood, atmosphere, lighting, pauses and a very creepy doll (Chucky's new bride?) to build tension and a sense of dreadful anticipation. 
Other than a great story, what made 'The Conjuring' so effective and terrifying are in no small part due to the fine performances by Lili Taylor, Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga and the supporting cast.  All of them had to 'sell us' that their primal fears are real in order to make this movie work.  And to be frank, I haven't felt so 'invested' or focused in a horror movie as I have in 'The Conjuring' in quite a while.  Well done, James.  William Friedkin couldn't have done it any better.

Grade: A

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