HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: The Conjuring
HTS Overall Score:88
“The Conjuring” is another in a long line of paranormal horror movies that is based off of a "true" story. In this case, it’s very loosely based off of one of the stories from real life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (also the same real life investigators who were sent out for the “true” Amityville Horror situation that the movies are based on). Originally, the film was supposed to be a documentary style film that chronicled the life and cases of Ed and Lorraine, but with time and constant changes it morphed back into the work of fictionalized theater that it is today. James Wan, who directed the original “Saw” as well as “Insidious” and “Insidious 2,” was courted to direct, and with his masterful eye for shooting, gave this film a much needed boot in the pants and turned the film from a movie that really held no appeal for me into a film that impressed me INCREDIBLY.
Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) are two paranormal investigators who’ve spent their life hunting down demons, ghosts, evil spirits, you name it. Some people call them kooks, nut-jobs, professors, heroes, the works. Up until recently, the Perron family would have gone with the term kooks, but with recent events, they are forced to turn to the Warren’s for help. Roger (Ron Livingston) and Carolyn (Lili Taylor) Perron are simple people, the moved into their new home a few weeks ago and have set down roots. The only problem is that strange things have started happening: doors slamming at night, a dog ending up dead on their front lawn, clocks all stopping at 3:07 A.M. every morning, and to make matters worse, the daughters are starting to see people and specters at night. At the end of their ropes after day in day out stress, Carolyn is bound and determined to make their home THEIR home. She visits a lecture of Ed and Lorraine’s and begs them to come and check out their home. Ed and Lorraine come to the family’s home and give it a once over, sure that it’s just another simple case of a logical explanation hidden in a person’s paranoid delusions (it seems that as many times as they’ve had an encounter, they have many more experiences where there’s nothing wrong, except for the over active imagination of their clients). Once there, all doubts are quickly wiped away when strange things start happening to them as well.
Needing proof for a full exorcism from the Catholic church, Ed and Lorraine start setting up their equipment and try to get as much documentation and proof as they can. As you can guess, the spirit that is inhabiting the house does NOT take kindly to their presence, recognizing them for the threat that they are. Amping up its attacks, the Warren and Perron families are in for the ride of their live when their worst fears come true and Carolyn is finally possessed by the evil entity. This sets in motion a chain of events that will force the Warrens to improvise and use every tool in their arsenal to help this poor family gain their life back.
Now I’m going to say it outright. I really don’t find any entertainment in most modern paranormal films. The last set of supernatural horror films that I really enjoyed was “The Exorcist”, “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” and “Rosemary’s Baby,” Pretty much everything past that has been eye roll worth to me. The “Paranormal Activity” series is horrifyingly bad, and even better films like “The Orphanage” or “The Woman in Black” are rather boring and lack any horror elements to them. Coming from a background of faith, it seems that the logical part of my brain can’t suspend disbelief long enough for me to enjoy them. That being said… This was the first time in at least 15 years that I was totally blown away by said genre. The film starts out with that same clichéd formula, explanations of a malevolent spirit and some guru coming in for an exorcism. Once the Warren’s reach the Perron’s house and the spirit is recognized and defined, the movie just amps it up. Keeping you on the edge of your toes from beginning to end, James Wan does a fantastic job at mixing the game up enough that it comes off as fresh and exciting in a worn out genre. The cinematography is simply stunning; I watched shots that I had to rewind and then rewind again just because I had to marvel at the mastery in which they were created. Every angle, every method, every jump scare was used artfully in order to keep you guessing just what was coming next.
The film itself could easily have jumped the tracks, most paranormal movies can do that quite easily, but with James Wan at the helm, the film was able to stay on track and keep that level of creep and horror up their without having me roll my eyes every 10 minutes (and that alone surprised me with my history of paranormal horror films). Honestly, I’d have to say that along with “Rosemary’s Baby” this is easily one of the best supernatural horror movies I’ve ever seen. Entertaining from beginning to end it sucks you into the family’s life, gets you to care for their suffering and strings you along for a bumpy ride till the explosive finale.
What really impressed me was the attention to detail that was given to the 1970’s era that the story took place in. The clothing, the hairstyles, even most of the language mimics the 70’s to a T. Even the color palette had that sort of diffused blue and green and orange color palette that everyone always likes to associate with that time period. Sure there was a few times where I chuckled knowing a slang phrase used wasn’t invented till the 90s or what not, but that’s always the case in a period film, knowing which language to keep and which language to cut out. Acting wise, Lili Taylor took the cake; everyone was very capable, but I really enjoyed the terrified performance that Lili gave. Every time she spoke you literally felt what she felt just by viewing the expression on her face, the crack in her voice and trembling due to the immense stress she was under.
Rated R for Sequences of Disturbing Violence and Terror
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=12931[/img]Again, I’m truly pleased to give another release another near perfect score in the video department. With a 2.40:1 AVC encode Warner has given us a nearly flawless piece of visual art. The film is saturated in that sort of diffused 70’s haze that everyone knows from their old home videos of mom and dad (or for those old enough to remember, our own childhood), filled with those burn oranges, yellows and olive greens that we know so well. Even though there is a slightly diffused look to the film, the detail is absolutely incredible, every hair on Lili Taylor’s frazzled head is there for us all to see, every crack in the old floor boards, the wallpaper that is slowly peeling away from the corners of the wall and the acne that Ms. Taylor had during the shoot was replicated with stunning clarity. The longer outdoor shots are bright and razor sharp, with fantastic detail in the environment. Greens are lush and rich with the morning fog giving it an eerie touch. The film spends a great portion in the dark shadows of the home, hiding and waiting for the spirit so as you can guess the black levels are extremely important. Not about to disappoint, the black levels are about as perfect as you could ask for with deep inky blacks that seep into every corner and done so well that nary a hint of black crush or washed out blacks is there to mar the tons of detail in the picture. Digital artifacting is nowhere to be seen, so no haloing, banding or any other forms that I could see.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=12932[/img]Now, being that this is a horror film, I expected a pretty strong track, but nothing prepared me for the sonic attack that Warner’s 5.1 DTS-HD MA would turn out to be. Starting out pretty mild, we’re privy to a couple of slamming doors and jump scare moments that have some wallop to them. Once the Warrens show up at the farm house the gloves are off, though, and the track really comes out to play. Directionality is absolutely incredible; you can hear the moans, whispers and creeks shift from side to side in the soundstage. First coming from the front, then shifting over your right shoulder than leaping across to whisper in your left ear. Mixed with some truly fantastic use of the surround channels, this turned into a truly enveloping track. From the crash of doors behind you to the sound of footsteps crunching through the country grass the surrounds were almost never inactive. Now the LFE was what really took me by surprise; there was some initial use during the first 30 minutes but when the Warrens went into full gear so did the LFE, the jump moments and action moments unleashed moments of LFE that literally vibrated the cabinets in my kitchen 30 + feet away sending deep deeeeeeeeep waves of LFE through the channels. Finally, dialogue is key for a movie like this - whispers are common, and you don’t want the effects to drown out or make the voices inaudible. Luckily, the dialogue is locked right in the center and the dynamic range is spot, allowing us to hear the whispers and soft voices that can barely be heard with perfect clarity and then be able to be thrown back in your seat from a scare that you didn’t see coming. Bravo Warner, bravo. I don’t like to give out perfect audio scores very often, but this one deserves all the praise it can get.
• "The Conjuring" Face to Face with Terror
• A Life in Demonology
• Scaring the "@$*%" Out of You
“The Conjuring” garnered a lot of positive buzz even before its theatrical release date, and once it exploded into theaters the positive buzz went from a buzz to a roar. Being that I’m very jaded about those types of movies, I shrugged it off as being over hyped and decided to skip it in theaters. Upon viewing it in my own theater, I immediately understood what all the buzz was for. James Wan and company created a supernatural horror film that actually put the horror back into the sub-genre. Creepy and suspenseful, it kept me locked to my seat and had my jaw hanging on the floor when I was done. No matter how cheesy, or how well done a script can be, I always rate a film on how much I ENJOYED the movie. Without enjoyment, a piece of art is nothing but an exercise in futility, and luckily for me I enjoyed the film IMMENSELY. With absolutely beautiful visuals and an audio track that will really take your home theater system to town, I’m proud to easily give this movie a watch at the very least and buy at the best. If the extras had only been a bit better this would have been a no thoughts required “BUY NOW!” type of release.
Starring: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Lili Taylor, Ron Livingston
Directed by: James Wan
Written by: Chad and Carey Hayes
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, French, Spanish, Portuguese DD 5.1
Studio: Warner Brothers
Blu-Ray Release Date: Oct 22nd, 2013
Buy The Conjuring Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Buy It
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