Tuesday, 16 July 2013
FILM REVIEW: THE CONJURING
Warner Bros./Roadshow Films
By Guest Reviewer Aaron Smith
Before there was Amityville, there was Harrisville. Roger and Carolyn Perron (Ron Livingstone and Lily Taylor) are confident that a move to the small, countryside town of Harrisville, in the state of Rhode Island, will bring a healthier and happier way of life for themselves, and their five daughters.
It’s 1971 and the Perrons risk their limited finances to secure a sizeable waterfront property featuring a large and charming old farm house. Sure the house is a fixer-upper, but it’s more important to them that their new home has fresh air, privacy, and space for the girls to run around with the family dog, Sadie. What they didn’t bargain on (it certainly wasn't in the brochure) was the dark and malevolent entity that begins to make them feel very unwelcome.
If it all sounds familiar, that’s because we’ve seen many similar horror films, including The Amityville Horror (1979). The commonality with these two stories isn’t just that the name of the towns end in ‘ville’. It’s that both stories can be found in the case files of real life paranormal investigators, the Warrens.
Ed and Lorraine Warren (here played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) claimed to have investigated over 10,000 hauntings during their career. Ed, a World War II US Navy veteran and former policeman, became an author and lecturer in demonology, working closely with wife Lorraine, a self-professed clairvoyant. Together they founded The New England Society for Psychic Research in 1952.
Many of the cases that the Warrens investigated have been featured in documentaries, such as Discovery Channel’s A Haunting, and books written by themselves and others. They pioneered modern methods of paranormal detection utilising the technology of the time, such as photography and video triggered by sudden thermal changes in the environment.
An earlier case (and our introduction to the Warrens) involving Annabelle, a possessed doll with a penchant for crayons, is creepily amusing. The Warren’s family house (they also hve a daughter, Judy, played with wide-eyed innocence by Sterling Jerins) contains a secured room for the storing of haunted artefacts and religious items gathered from past cases. Better that they are kept under their supervision, rather than go back out into the world to cause harm. (Annabelle gets locked in a glass cabinet within said room, never to cause mischief again – they hope!)
Director James Wan (Insidious, Saw, and the soon-to-be released Insidious Chapter II), and writers Chad Hayes and Carey W. Hayes (The Reaping), do a terrific job intertwining the stories of the two families. Having the focus on suspense rather than gore was much appreciated. Respect and real affection is shown towards all of the characters, and the subject matter. And while all cast members give impressive performances, not surprisingly it’s Vera Farmiga as the compassionate and generous Lorraine who is a stand-out.
So, too, the look of the film. The 1970’s retro styling of the opening credits sets the tone for the whole film, with outstanding set design and costuming giving the film an authentic look. Special mention must also be made of cinematographer, John R. Leonetti, who is able to seamlessly make the audience feel as though they are there in the house experiencing the danger beside the Perrons and Warrens. My favourite sequence, involving a change in the weather and a bed sheet, still gives me chills. Is awards attention for Mr. Leonetti too much to ask?
There's also fun to be had spotting references to other, older horror films, like Poltergeist, A Nightmare On Elm Street, Child’s Play and Candyman. And while the climax wrapped things up a little too conveniently, I'd highly recommend The Conjuring to anyone who enjoys a good old fashioned scare.