The Conjuring

The Conjuring (R) - Runtime: 112 minutes
Starring: Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Lili Taylor
Director: James Wan
Writers: Chad Hayes, Carey Hayes

I had my trepidations about this movie - but the reviews have been super stellar and my friends wanted to go see it, so I obliged. The reason I was wary is that I am really not a fan of horror movies. At least, modern horror movies. Luckily the movie was amazing and I think is destined to be considered a classic among the genre.

A lot of modern horror movies rely too heavily on cheap scares. Those "gotcha" moments where you think something bad is about to happen, but really it's just a cat jumping out of a closet. That's fine once in a while - but a lot of movies use it excessively to the point of exhaustion.

If you're going that route, it's best to just parody the cat jump.

And the gore. Oh god the gore. I don't understand why people love torture and dismemberment. It's not scary; it's just shock value. I'd rather watch a horror movie that has some weight to it. I want the characters to be at least likeable and have some sort of depth to them. Scream, The Shining, The Exorcist all created mood and atmosphere without sacrificing story or character. Add The Conjuring to that list - this will be remembered as a classic.

The story is loosely based on the real life supernatural investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. The film follows the story of a family being haunted in Rhode Island and the subsequent investigation by the Warrens. It's loaded with atmosphere and the mood was struck right from the beginning when the title The Conjuring scrolls up in this old-school, Exorcist-like typeface.

And The Conjuring has a lot more in common with The Exorcist than Saw, director James Wan's first movie. This is strictly old-school terror. The movie does a great job of building up the suspense. The haunting starts off pretty awful (their dog gets killed the first night they're in the house) and then the evil spirits start to really mess with the family every night. When things reach a boiling point, the parents have no other choice but to enlist the help of the Warrens.

What's great about the movie is that it spends a lot of time getting to know the Warrens - Lorraine is deeply haunted by a recent encounter with a demon and she is probably not fully prepared to take on this case. Nevertheless, they both trudge forward because they feel they need to. It all leads up to a fantastic climax that, honestly, I didn't know what would happen. There's no extra "twist" or surprise ending here - the movie is too smart to rely on a cheap trick like that (not that there's anything wrong with surprise endings, it's just too many times these films rely on turning the tables on the audience at the end).

I was pretty scared, but also highly entertained. The movie has a lot of great angles and camerwork. The movie pays homage to classics like The Shining in that respect - it's just expertly shot. And the acting is great - Vera Farmiga is at her best - I don't think she's been better except for Up in the Air. Patrick Wilson is good as well as the rest of the family - Lili Taylor goes completely bonkers and it's believable.

The movie isn't the scariest thing you'll see, but you be highly entertained and its characters and setting will certainly be remembered. The film is expertly paced and shot - it deserves to be hailed as one of the best horror films in the past decade. For shiz.

Rating: See It!

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