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.

8/10

Movie Review: Source Code [2011, Jones]

Source Code [2011]

Source Code [2011]
Director: Duncan Jones
Genre: Mystery/Sci-Fi/Thriller
Language: English
Country: USA

Groundhog Day meets… Speed?

Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhall) is having a hell of a day. He wakes up on board a Chicago-bound Metra commuter train, and he is no idea how he got there. Worse yet, he appears to be living in someone else’s body. This person, a school teacher named Sean, is sitting across from his good friend Christina (Michelle Monaghan). Everything appears to be business as usual until the train explodes after exactly eight minutes, killing everyone on board. Stevens wakes up in an unfamiliar location and is quickly contacted by Air Force Captain Colleen Goodwin (Vera Farmiga), who briefs him on his situation. Stevens learns that there was a bomb on the train, and that he is being used as part of a secret U.S. Military program to figure out who placed the explosives. He is forced to repeat the same eight minute sequence over and over until he determines who was responsible for the destruction.

Source Code [2011]

Source Code is pretty intense, with several twists and turns amidst the frantic sci-fi thriller pacing. Even though it presents some interesting philosophical and ethical questions, the movie has a mostly benevolent attitude throughout (somewhat similar to The Adjustment Bureau in this regard). There are several moments where one will need to suspend their disbelief, but this is to be expected given the plot premise.

It’s easy to get behind the character of Colter Stevens thanks to a great performance from Gyllenhall. He brings a certain human element to his character, even bringing the laughs during dire moments. Michelle Monaghan does well despite having what is essentially a throwaway role. I was most impressed with Vera Farmiga, who excels despite being on a computer screen during many of her scenes. She is quickly becoming one of my favorite actresses. Jeffrey Wright is also another standout here as the leader of the Source Code program, effortlessly showing he is the man in charge.

Source Code [2011]

I enjoyed Source Code about as much as I enjoyed The Adjustment Bureau, which is to say quite a bit. Duncan Jones’ title digs deeper and is perhaps “smarter” overall but both are a lot of fun. I would have opted for a different ending in Source Code, but it hardly ruined the experience for me. Fast-paced, intelligent and suspenseful, Source Code is one of the better movies to come out this year.

8/10