Sunday, July 21, 2013

FILM REVIEW: The Conjuring (2013) - James Wan

The horror genre is one that suffers from weight issues. It's a genre that is difficult to find craft and balance in. Many of the films take themselves too seriously or not seriously enough. A tinge to the left can have the audience laughing at it's disingenuous, while a tinge to the right can have them groaning in disgust. In essence, in the horror genre, it's very easy to break the diving board.

Now, I've been a fan of James Wan's since his career began. As anybody who knows me knows, I am an avid fan of the Saw franchise, in particular, the first three films (the first directed by James, and the original trilogy all written by his longtime partner in crime, Leigh Whannell). With his second film, I thought Dead Silence took itself a little too seriously, but it established an almost vaudeville voice in horror for Wan that separated itself from Saw.

Wan's fourth film, Insidious, saw Wan finally being taken seriously outside of his Saw fame. While lightning doesn't strike twice, it was Wan's second horror film (the first being Saw) to be made for under $2 million and making back around $100 million. One of the selling points of Insidious is that it tries something new with horror, and where that is concerned, I give it all the credit. Personally, I felt Insidious lost it's traction in it's third act, mainly because of the decision made to CGI the demon, and the amount of horror that was lost to the imagination. 

James Wan's balance is perfected in The Conjuring.

While The Conjuring isn't the perfect horror film, it is by far and away one of the best in the last few years, and definitely the best in Wan's history to date. It continues to feature Wan's vaudeville-type demons that started in Dead Silence, but it doesn't go overboard by showing them too much, and it has just the right amount of humor to balance out it's darkness.

The film follows the story of the Warrens (portrayed by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga), real-life paranormal investigators who researched several famous "hauntings" (The Amityville Horror, and The Haunting In Connecticut being two other media pieces based off their cases). In The Conjuring, they come to the assistance of the Perron family, who begin experiencing disturbing things at their new home in Rhode Island.

While I don't praise many horror performances, I have to continue to give Vera Farmiga (Orphan, Up in the Air, Bates Motel) the credit she deserves. She has been one of my favorite actresses of the past decade, and she definitely doesn't disappoint here. 

In contrast with Insidious, and for the sake of argument, The Conjuring isn't anything new. But where some see this as a detractor, I see it as a perfection of approach to styles and tropes within the horror genre, similar to how Alfonso Duralde defended the film with, "...but Fred Astaire didn't invent tap dancing," James Wan did not invent the ghost/demon/exorcism style, but he damn near perfected it. 

While James Wan is now moving on to doing bigger budget films (Insidious 2 comes out in September, but Fast & Furious 7 is next on his production list), I personally cannot wait to see what else he comes up with in the horror genre. I would love to see him move outside of ghosts and try a thriller, as he is quite on point with his techniques in building suspense. 

Go see this film and support well-done horror films. Or be stuck with remakes of When A Stranger Calls. 

1 comment:

  1. Carolyn and Roger Perron with their five daughters move into a secluded Rhode Island farmhouse. Strange things start happening in and around the house at night. Turns out, it's not just fear that's playing hide-and-seek with their minds.