wogma rating: Add to 'must watch' list (?)
James Wan’s latest spookfest, The Conjuring, makes for a decent big screen watch because of some genuine thrills. The film makes will have you hooked and rooting for the characters; if you’re the kind that scares easy, I assure you you’ll have some good fun.Read more
I was slightly disappointed that the DVD of The Conjuring (a single DVD pack, as usual), had only one special feature - a roughly 8-minute segment titled 'Scaring the @$*% Out of You'. Pretty much a 'making of', the video does give a glimpse into director James Wan's style of work, but it leaves you wanting more. Considering how much effort went into the look, feel and the design of the scares, a more comprehensive featurette would have been wonderful. Also, the DVD doesn't have audio or subtitle options in any Indian languages, which is a pity.
It is left to the movie, then, to make the DVD of the film a collectible. The Conjuring, for me, is one of best horror films in recent times, and that becomes even more apparent while watching it for the second time on DVD. Despite knowing exactly how the film is going to pan out, it still manages to involve you in the period, the location and the characters. James Wan is an exciting director to watch out for in the horror space, because he knows how to use familiar tropes well, and he really paces the horror elements well. The Conjuring is must-own for fans of horror!
A film that announces, right at the start, that it is based on a true story, always tends to make you shift in your seat with some anticipation. And when that film delves into the supernatural, you are bound to be even more intrigued. One of the big tragedies of the life that I have spent almost wholly sucked into the world of cinema is the fact that the one genre which hasn’t been able to penetrate deep into the corners of my soul is horror.
I’ve never been terrified while watching a horror film, which also means that I’m usually the wrong person to be doling out opinions on whether a film is scary or not. Horror, for me, is an extension of the thriller genre, and that’s usually how I judge every horror film. The Conjuring, then, draws you into a dark world, hooks you and lets you go feeling quite, well, thrilled.
Based on a hitherto untold true story from the case files of famous paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren – who were also involved in investigating The Amityville Haunting, amongst other ‘famous’ real life supernatural stories – The Conjuring sets itself up with a familiar premise – a family of seven (a couple with five daughters) moves into a new house and begins to experience strange occurrences almost as soon as they do. The Warrens are brought in to look into the matter, even as the haunting begins to assume proportions they hadn’t experienced so far in their professional lives investigating paranormal phenomena.
In the hands of genre expert James Wan – Saw and Insidious are the two films of his I’ve watched earlier, and both are good fun – The Conjuring doffs its hat to The Exorcist, but uses silences and pauses as its greatest weapons in attempting to scare the audience. It uses minimal music but familiar startling visual tropes that keep building up in frequency and intensity through the film.
What I really liked about The Conjuring is the fact that it has a nice graph – a slow build up, a gripping middle and a conclusive, definite resolution. Also, the film is set in the early 70s, and it manages to create a nice feel for the time period with its grainy look, colour tone and production design.
What also sets The Conjuring slightly apart from most other recent horror films is that it makes you invest emotionally in not just the family that is being haunted, but also with those who are called in to help the family in their distress – you root for both parties equally – because there is always the unshakable feeling that both parties have something at stake.
However, it is Vera Farmiga, who plays Lorraine Warren, that’s easily the best thing about the film. Blessed with the most charming, pleasing and warm screen presence, she is almost like the shining beacon of hope in The Conjuring. To borrow a term from the Harry Potter series, she’s almost like a Patronus – a guardian against negativity and evil. Patrick Wilson, a frequent star in James Wan’s films, creates a credible aura of support as Ed Warren.
Mostly though, The Conjuring is the kind of film that works because of the ambiance it creates in the cinema hall. Barring those who attempt to mask their fear by indulging in loud commentary and lame humour, the film unites the audience in its gasping reactions to what is being witnessed. For that experience alone, The Conjuring is best watched in the theatre, in the last possible night show that you can find. Go for it then; I envy you for the fun you’ll have, while I deal with my own ironical curse of non-scary horror.
This review is by guest reviewer Pradeep Menon. Pradeep is a filmmaker and a dreamer. He loves books, rain, winters, tea and his parents. Cinema, however, is the only truth he believes in. He breathes and bleeds film, mostly in hues of saffron, white, green and blue. You can watch his short films at www.youtube.com/cyberpradeep.
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