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Review: The Conjuring

Cinema Review

I have seen the trailers for this film since they have played them before nearly every film I watched at the cinema for the past few months. This meant I was already pretty familiar with I was going to get when I went to see this and the film delivered exactly what I expected: a haunted house story in the vein of Poltergeist, The Possession and Insidious. It is a film that manages to produce all the usual scares in the usual way without really trying to push the ideas into new territory. It makes a big claim to being based on a true story but that doesn’t mean much going by how often that claim is made for films. It also has one of those generic titles that don’t ave much to do with this film

The main focus of this film is Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) and Ed (Patrick Wilson) Warren, a couple who have made a name for themselves in the world of paranormal investigations and we get introduced to them finishing off a case involving a doll possessed by what Ed insists is a demon. Another film based one of their case is the Amityville Horror though they don’t appear as characters in that story.

conjuringThe family that is being haunted are Carolyn (Lili Taylor) and Roger (Ron Livingston) Perron and their five daughters who have just moved into a new house out in the country. Of course they have put all their money into this new house which establishes why they don’t just leave when things start getting dangerous. Things start slow with things like the youngest daughter finding an old music box. Later she tells her mother about an imaginary friend that she says that she sees the mirror of the music box while the music is playing. At first it’s just things getting misplaced which are easily passed off as the sisters messing with each other.

Things move up to the next level and the girls are getting affected by ghosts appearing to some of them and attacking them. Carolyn is also waking up every morning to find her body covered in bruises. She goes to a lecture that the Warrens are giving at a local university and Ed is giving a lecture about the three stages of attack by a demonic spirit. After the lecture she asks them for their help and while Ed is reluctant Lorraine agrees to help.

They arrive to have look over the house and have another couple of people along to help: a nerd called Drew (Shannon Kook) to operate the recording equipment and Brad (John Brotherton) a cop  withe a porn ‘tache who is there as a sceptical witness (though I don’t see how bringing along your own regular sceptic witness helps their credibility). Lorraine uses her spooky super-sense to determine that there is a demonic presence haunting the place and now they have to gather enough evidence to convince the Catholic Church to allow an exorcism to be performed.

This film has a nice slow burn and lets us get to know the large number of characters. The girls playing the daughters have a natural feel to their interactions and feel like sisters. The rest of the cast are good enough. When it starts with the creepiness the film uses all the old tricks that fans of horror films will be very familiar with but they still seems to be as effective with the general audience as ever. Some of these have had their impact dampened by appearing in the trailer but they still work pretty well. I thought that the ending was very routine but that fits in with the fairly standard nature of the film and I would have been surprised if they had thrown in sort of gimmicky twist. I’m glad that this film is doing well at the box office but though I liked it I can’t say I found it as scary as other people have.

Rating 7.0/10

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Posted by on August 5, 2013 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review:The Exorcist

October Horror Month

This is the modern classic that may have imitators but none have ever come close to the raw power of the original. I was nine when this film came out so I was well aware of the buzz around the film and its growing reputation as one of the most genuinely frightening films ever made but I wouldn’t get to see it until much later when it got shown as part of a double bill with the John Boorman sequel. Until then I had to rely on reading the novel by William Peter Blatty. When I finally saw it I could see why it shocked and scared so many people and that’s why it’s the first film in this October Horror Month

Chris McNeil (Ellen Burstyn) is a wealthy actress living temporarily in Georgetown with her daughter 12-year-old Regan (Linda Blair) while she works on a film being shot in Washington. Strange things start happening like noises in the attic and Regan complaining that her bed is moving. Regan begins acting strangely but at first the strangeness is harmless, like using a Ouija board and talking to an imaginary figure that Regan calls Captain Howdy and Cathy doesn’t take it seriously because Regan seems bright and cheerful as usual. Chris holds a party and things are going very well apart from her friend film director Burke Dennings (Jack MacGowran) getting very drunk and abusive towards Chris’s servant Karl. Chris manages to hustle Burke out of the door and the party is swinging with a Catholic priest Father Dyer (William O’Malley) on the piano leading a sing-song. Suddenly Regan appears in the in the room. She turns to one of the guests who is an astronaut and tells him that he’s going to die up there then she pisses on the floor

Regan’s personality is very different from this point: she is very withdrawn and frightened about what’s happening to her. Chris promises that they’ll find out what’s wrong. She leaves Regan in her bed to sleep and goes to check with her servants but she hears a loud noise and Regan screaming. Chris sees Regan’s bed jumping around, clearly moving by itself. Chris jumps on it to try to stop it but that doesn’t work.

Chris takes Regan to see a doctor who thinks she may have a problem in the temporal lobe of her brain and he dismisses Chris’s account of the bed moving as irrelevant. Regan undergoes a series of increasingly unpleasant medical tests and all the doctors can say is that they can find nothing wrong physically. All they can do for her is sedate her. Her doctor recommends Regan sees a psychiatrist.

That night when Chris gets home she finds the house empty expect for Regan in her bed still sedated with her blankets thrown off and her window wide open. Chris is very angry with Sharon, Regan’s nanny, for leaving Regan alone but Sharon had left Burke Dennings to watch out for Regan while Sharon had gone to get Regan’s prescription. Then someone from the studio calls by and tells that them that Burke Dennings is dead. Apparently he fell down the stairs just outside Chris’s house and broke his neck

The psychiatrist tries hypnotizing Regan to bring out the personality possessing Regan and after he gets a cheap shot to the balls he runs off. After more examinations by psychiatrists at a clinic they recommend Cathy consider an exorcism, not from any belief in the supernatural but they reason that if believing she’s possessed has caused these problems then believing she has been exorcised may cure her.

Police detective Lieutenant Kinderman (Lee J. Cobb) is investigating the death of Burke Dennings. He visits Father Damian Karras (Jason Miller) who works a psychiatrist for the Catholic Church. The head was found twisted right round 180° and it was likely that Dennings was dead before he fell. He wonders if there could be link to obscene vandalism at the church and witches might be involved, Or a deranged priest, which is really why he wants to talk to Karras. Later he visits Chris  and tries to find out more about what happened. As Kinderman goes into detail of his theory of how Dennings died he  comes up blank when trying to think of who could have done it when there was only a sick twelve-year-old in the house but Chris has an idea the Regan did it.

Chris meets Father Karras (Jason Miller) and asks him lots of questions about what he does before she actually gets to the question of an exorcism for Regan. Karras is a fully trained psychiatrist who has been put through his education by the Catholic Church. In the real world he could be earning big bucks treating people but as a counselor for the members of the church he finds himself at odds with dealing their questions of faith when he feels he has lost his own faith. He also feels that he failed his mother when she really needed someone around and she died as a result. He really tries to talk Chris out of the idea of an exorcism

Karras speaks with Regan and gets a face full of pea soup. The demon personality claims to be the devil before doing a perfect imitation of a beggar Karras had met earlier. Karras is still skeptical of the idea that Regan is possessed and once more tries to talk Chris out of an exorcism. He tells her that the Church will need proof of possession before he’ll get permission. Next day he returns with a tape recorder and the demon is taunting him talking in all sorts of languages but just in short phrases. It make things move but refuses to do it on command. Karras fools the demon into thinking it’s getting anointed with holy water and it reacts violently talking in a tongue that Karras doesn’t recognize. When he gets his recording back to the Church it turns out to be English backwards.

Despite his doubts Karras requests permission from his Bishop to perform an exorcism which the Bishop agrees to but he wants someone with experience to do it and he calls in Father Merrin (Max von Sydow) We saw Merrin at the start of the film working as an archaeologist in Iraq and saw that he was not in the best of health. It was also his name that the demon mentioned in the backwards talk. Merrin arrives at the house and the demon shouts out his name as he enters.

Karras is ready to give Merrin the full background but Merrin is not interested. All he needs is holy water and the prayer book and with little preparation he confronts the demon with Karras at his side. The men pray over Regan while the demon tries to distract them with obscenity and abuse. The walls shake and crack and Regan does the 180° head turn and starts directing her abuse at Karras. Regan float up in the air above her bed while Merrin and Karras cast out the demon ion the name all that is holy and spraying her with holy water. Eventually she floats back down and she seems to have gone quiet.

Merrin suggests they take a break and the two men are thoroughly exhausted, Merrin is physically exhausted while for Karras it is an emotional exhaustion. Karras sees a hallucination of his mother begging for his help. When Merrin sees how Karras has been affected he sends him out of the room and kneels down to pray next to Regan.

Karras sits out in the hallway and Chris comes to ask if its over and Karras shakes his head sadly. Chris wants to know if Regan is going die and Karras promises that she won’t. He goes back into Regan’s room and finds Merrin dead. He tries to restart the man’s heart but its useless and the demon just laughs at his efforts. Karras grabs Regan and shakes her ordering demon to leave the child and enter him. The demon does as he commands and fully possesses Karras. It is about to kill Regan but Karras has still got enough control to send his body out of Regan’s window to die at the bottom the stairs where Dennings was found.

Often time is not kind to films but this film is every bit as effective as when it first came out. It takes a while before anything really happens while it builds a picture of the characters so when the film gets to the exorcism itself we know really know who they are and what they have at stake.In particular we have Karras whose plot runs alongside the main demonic possession plot-line and it is a great performance from Jason Miller as the priest who has lost his faith but finds it again when confronting evil demonic power. I also love Lee J.Cobb’s Kinderman with strong shades of Columbo.

Rating 10/10

 
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Posted by on October 1, 2012 in Entertainment, Film

 

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