‘Conjuring’ is creepy haunted house tale; plus sequel ‘Red 2’
When it comes to horror movies, my preference is for movies about things that go bump in the night versus gore fests, so The Conjuring is right in my creepy wheelhouse. When you’ve interviewed a person who has been through this, as I did back in 1979 when I talked to George Lutz, who spent 28 days with his family in The Amityville Horror house — the basis for that film — your natural skepticism is tempered by hearing the account first hand.
The Conjuring, from Saw director James Wan, is also based on a true case, which, like Amityville, involving noted ghost hunters/demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren (played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga).
When George and Carolyn Perron (Ron Livingston, Lili Taylor) move into as isolated farmhouse in Rhode Island in 1971, it doesn’t take long before the house reveals itself as a very bad investment with all the classic symptoms: the family dog who refuses to enter the house; clocks that stop at the same time each night; foul smells; one daughter whose legs are being pulled by an invisible force; strange noises and doors that open and close by themselves; a walled-in basement; the youngest daughter’s new invisible friend and the wife’s mysterious bruises.
These are just the tip of the paranormal iceberg (yes, there are cold spots, too), and when things really begin to spin out of control with visible apparitions, the Warrens are asked for their help. Their arrival brings a nod to Poltergeist into the mix (foreshadowed with a shot of a TV screen filled with static) as the Warrens and their team set up surveillance to get enough proof of possession for the Catholic Church to chime in with an exorcism to cleanse the house.
Let’s just say the proof is overwhelming and the terror reaches a crescendo that results in a finale that conjures up classic moments from The Exorcist. Blood and guts fans might not feel the terror, but horror that feels palpable and real depends on the quality of the actors expressing their fear, and the quartet in The Conjuring are first rate, in particular Farmiga and Taylor.
This is a do-over of sorts for Taylor, whose previous horror outing was the awful 1999 remake of the classic 1963 film The Haunting. Here she gets it exactly right as a woman who must fight a demon to save her family.
It helps that director Wan applies just the right ambiance to make The Conjuring old school without being old-fashioned, and that he has us rooting for this likeable family from the first goosebump moment to the last.
The Conjuring will have you shuddering with every creepy moment.
Seeing More ‘Red’
Red was a sleeper hit several years back, a delightful action comedy that had us laughing and cheering the old school retired spies forced back in action headed by Bruce Willis, John Malkovich and especially the gun-toting Helen Mirren. Based on a series of graphic novels, the new sequel, Red 2, plays up the cartoon aspect up much more than the previous film to the detriment of the story. Bigger and louder doesn’t mean better. Even adding Anthony Hopkins to the mix as a deranged scientist and Catherine Zeta-Jones as a sexy Russian spy doesn’t help as much as was hoped, although Mirren is absolutely terrific once again.
When your summertime movie going meter is set on fantasy blockbuster, it is a jolt when a real movie comes along.
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