Movie Review: The Conjuring [2013]

The Conjuring [2013]

The Conjuring [2013]
Director: James Wan
Writers: Chad Hayes, Carey Hayes
Genre: Horror/Thriller
Starring: Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Ron Livingston, Lili Taylor
Running Time: 112 minutes

The real-life couple of Ed and Lorraine Warren gained notoriety as the founders of the New England Society for Psychic Research, a paranormal investigative group that attempted to help with thousands of ghost and demon-related hauntings. The Conjuring tells the tale of one of the couple’s investigations, which the opening credits describe as their most extreme case ever.

Set in 1971, the film focuses on a family of seven that moves into an old farmhouse in Harrisville, Rhode Island. The parents, Roger (Ron Livingston) and Carolyn (Lili Taylor), and their five daughters, are happy-go-lucky during their big move-in day, though they find it peculiar that their dog, Sadie, refuses to enter the house. The very next morning, Carolyn wakes up with a huge bruise on her leg, and poor Sadie is found dead outside.

The Conjuring [2013]

The paranormal activities only get worse from there, and they grow more and more frequent. Items are thrown across the house, doors are open and shut on their own, and children are pulled from their beds while they sleep. To top it off, the youngest daughter claims to have made a new friend, Rory, who no one else can see.

Eventually, the family cannot take any more of the abuse, and Carolyn reaches out to Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) Warren for help. As soon as they arrive, Lorraine immediately notices multiple presences within the house. It’s clear to them that there is a demon that has latched onto the family, and they will have to gain evidence in order to pursue an exorcism on the entire house. The Warrens set up an elaborate system of cameras and audio recordings in order to obtain enough proof, but this quickly becomes a race against the clock as their presence seems to infuriate the demon inside the house.

The Conjuring [2013]

The general concept for The Conjuring feels familiar, and the film itself doesn’t really break any new ground within the horror genre. However, the overall package is well put together, offering a chilling atmosphere with a relentless sense of dread and plenty of scares. The attention to detail is impeccable, as director James Wan nailed the 1970s setting, right down to the household items on display. Wilson and Farmiga are terrific in the lead roles, and the children do well at looking scared out of their minds. Lili Taylor and Ron Livingston make for a great couple as well, though the latter looks surprisingly emotionless during the film’s batshit-crazy climax.

The fact that The Conjuring is based on a true story adds even more to its freaky nature. Sure, extreme liberties were taken with some of the paranormal disturbances, but they help make the film even more entertaining. As someone who doesn’t believe in ghosts, demonic possessions or the like, I still found this to be an incredibly entertaining film. Perhaps best of all, it’s intelligent as well, something we really don’t see much of in the genre anymore.


The Switch [2010]

The Switch [2010]

The Switch [2010]
Directors: Josh Gordon & Will Speck
Genre: Comedy/Drama/Romance
Language: English
Country: USA

A romantic comedy with a ‘spermy’ twist.

The Switch stars Jennifer Aniston, who is apparently on a mission to tackle every rom-com role made for 40-year-old single women. This time around her character, Kassie, has decided she wants a baby and is going to go the insemination route instead of opting for more conventional circumstances. Her best friend, Wally (Jason Bateman), is disappointed by this but attends her “insemination party” anyway. At the celebration, Wally proceeds to get shitfaced and accidentally dumps the donor’s (Patrick Wilson) sperm (conveniently left in a cup) down the bathroom sink. In a fit of boozy negligence, Wally decides to fill the cup back up with his own, ahem, specimens.

Flash forward seven years later. Kassie, now back in NYC after leaving for a job, meets up with Wally and introduces him to her child, Sebastian (Thomas Robinson). A series of uncanny resemblances leads Wally to remember that fateful night (he was near a “blackout” stage when it happened), and then hilarity is supposed to ensue.

As with so many other romantic comedies, The Switch has its shortcomings. There are some ridiculous plot developments (an insemination party, really?), occasional cookie-cutter dialogue and the usual issues with predictability, but this movie rises above most in its genre due to one person: Jason Bateman. Seriously, his performance as the lonely, subdued Wally is entirely what makes this film watchable. This is a man who has been in love with his best friend for so many years, yet has never been able to take those feelings to the next level. I usually could care less about these types of movies, but I couldn’t help but root for the guy to follow his dream, even considering the bizarre circumstances that got him into this situation. This is a testament to Bateman’s performance (certainly not the script).

Other than Bateman (and the kid, who is actually pretty funny), the general cast is mediocre at best. Aniston sleepwalks through her performance, not really adding anything new to her repertoire. Patrick Wilson is solid, albeit unspectacular, as Kassie’s other love interest. Jeff Goldblum and Juliette Lewis both have small roles, and neither one seemed thrilled to be doing their parts.

Without Jason Bateman, The Switch would have likely fallen into the same rut that so many other romantic comedies belong to. The movie has its funny moments and it isn’t boring — that’s about all you can ask for from something like this. If your girlfriend is begging to watch something in the genre, opt for The Switch instead of The Backup Plan. You will be glad you did.