The Conjuring (2013) Review

The-Conjuring-2013-Movie-TitleThere seems to be a general consensus amongst critics and moviegoers about the horror genre: it just isn’t what it used to be.  With maybe the exceptions of Sinister (2012) and Insidious (2010), nothing has really left a huge impression on audiences since the 1970s with genre classics such as The Exorcist (1973).  Saying that, for as good as Sinister and Insidious were, there was still something lacking in their formula that left me feeling dissatisfied with the end of both films.  So when I went to see The Conjuring (2013) the Friday that it came out, my expectations weren’t that high.

THE CONJURINGThe Conjuring follows story of the Perron’s, your typical working class family, who move into a new home in Rhode Island in 1971 and are terrorized by an evil entity.  In desperate need of help, paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) are contacted and uncover the houses dark history and agenda.

It’s your typical haunted house movie where the family moves in, the pet starts acting weird, the pet dies, things start to gradually escalate, someone might get possessed, throw an exorcism in there and BAM, you’ve got The Conjuring.  I’ve seen it a million times, it’s predictable, I know what’s probably going to happen!  But hey, I’m a sucker for a goodStill 6 from The Conjuring ghost story and The Conjuring, even though I knew what was going to be thrown at me at every turn, still caught me off guard and definitely left it’s impression on me (I slept with both legs underneath my blankets that night).

From acting to wardrobe, everything was ace in The Conjuring.  Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga were excellent in their roles as investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, and Lili Taylor, Ron Livingston and the girls who played their daughters were believable in their role of the terrified family.

Since the film was set in the 1970s, there was a great authentic feel to it.  From wardrobe, props, even camera zooms, you can tell that The Conjuring definitely paid homage to the classic horrors from the 1970s.

And I have to say; the atmosphere in this movie was great!  It had some of the best buildups in a horror movie that I have ever experienced.  I felt very tense during the scenes that were called for, and even though in my head, I knew what was going to happen, I still jumped in my seat quite a few times (damn that ghost maid!).

There were few things that I didn’t like about the movie that are very miniscule.  I wasn’t a fan of the sappy romantic moments that Ed and Lorraine had, or the very brief flashback sequence of the family portrait at the beach that ultimately helps Carolyn Perron fight the demon inside of her.  But none of these things were overwhelming enough to sway my overall opinion of the film and probably just draw from my cynical attitude towards romance.

And even though a lot of people weren’t happy with the ending, I didn’t mind it!  We’ve become so accustomed to horror having endings in which the movie isn’t fully resolved like IMG_0278.dngthe characters thought it was that we expect all horror movies to now end with basically someone dying.  But I was glad that everything worked out for the Perron’s in the end.  I suppose that the exorcism at the end was rushed and not that climactic but I can live with that!  As for the very very end of the film, I enjoyed the nod that was given when Lorraine mentions “a house on Long Island” that they’ve been asked to look at.  If you haven’t been clued in, that house on Long Island was the infamous Amityville horror house.

And the closing scene with the music box toyed with the audiences’ feelings. It left me feeling tense and on edge… for what?  I’ll never know…

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A breath of fresh air, The Conjuring proves to us that sometimes the most effective way to scare an audience is to keep the formula simple.

Review: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

I’m baaaaaaaack!

First off, I want to apologize for the almost month long absence.  I’ve been busy, y’know, trying to get an education.

Second, I miss this blog a lot.  And I feel terrible that I haven’t had the time to write.

Third, I’ve watched about maybe five or more movies during my absence and I’m going to try and review them all, but it will probably be awhile, considering the fact that my time management skills are just so awesome!

The review today is a film that I just recently watched in class on Monday night:  The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974).

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre follows the story of five teenagers traveling to their grandfather’s old home when they are hunted down, tortured, and killed by a crazy cannibalistic family.

Prior to seeing this, I had never seen any incarnation of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.  I had a vague idea of what the story was about, but I was under the impression that Leatherface was the only villain.  So I was pretty unaware of exactly what was going to happen in the movie.

The movie starts out kind of slow, however, there’s a lot of foreshadowing going on: desecrated and robbed graves, slaughterhouses, and the creepy hitchhiker.  However, when the film ended, I was left feeling disturbed and scared and very aware of the fact that it was 10 o’clock at night and I had to walk all the way to the bus stop, and then all the way back to my apartment BY MYSELF.

I can’t really remember the last time a movie left me feeling the way I felt after watching The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.  I thought it was extremely disturbing, and I’m glad I was left feeling like that because this is a horror movie after all!  I’m also glad that we watched the original, because I feel like the remake would not have had any sort of effect on me whatsoever.

Something really interesting about this film was that, in a way, it was very symbolic of the time period.  The Vietnam War was going on when this was released and the Watergate Scandal had just happened in ’73.  So there was a real loss of trust in the government and society as well as a decline in the belief of the American Dream.  This movie does a good job at reflecting that through its portrayal of the cannibal family.  The dinner scene is so demented and a good example of showing the breakdown of society and essentially evil taking the place of what is supposed to be good.

I also really like the whole apocalyptic tone of the movie.  There are a lot of shots of the sun that are very foreboding and eerie.  One of the characters, Pam, keeps reading from an astrology book with basically just bad news all around.  And every time we hear a radio, there is always bad news being broadcasted.  There is literally no sense of hope at all in the movie, and even though the final girl, Sally, escapes, it’s at the cost of her sanity and the killers aren’t captured and nothing is resolved.

I have to say that for as disturbing as this movie was, there was very little blood and guts shown, which is actually quite impressive!  The scared and disturbed feeling comes mostly from the tone set throughout the movie.

As far as horror movies go, this is probably one of the best that I’ve seen ever (which might not be saying much; I’m not exactly an expert on horror).  But it left me feeling uneasy and very disturbed, which is ultimately what I expect to feel when watching any horror film.

Movies You Should Know About: Psycho (1960)

Can you imagine my surprise upon finding out that my American Themes class was going to be dedicated to the study of American horror movies this semester?  This is just perfect, especially since Halloween is coming round the bend pretty soon.  And what was the first movie we had to watch for class?  If you guessed Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, you would be correct!

Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), an office secretary, sees an opportunity and takes it.  What is this opportunity?  Stealing $40,000 from her employer.  As she is driving with the money to meet her boyfriend in California, she stops at the Bates Motel to rest and meets the awkward, lanky, momma’s boy Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins).

 

Hitchcock had this thing where he loved to control and manipulate his audience.  Some of the ways he did this were:

  1. By not allowing people who showed up late in to see the movie.
  2. The whole beginning of the movie, basically.

If you’ve never seen Psycho and don’t know anything at all about it, chances are you’ll think this movie is about a woman who steals $40,000 and is on the run.  But then OH MY GOD Janet Leigh is murdered a half-hour into the movie and the $40,000 is completely unimportant to any aspect of the plot now!  This is actually pretty amazing, when you think about it and how it completely shocked audiences in 1960.

For the small part that she has in the movie, Janet Leigh is great.  I mean, come on, that shower scene is completely iconic now!

Anthony Perkins was creepy as Norman Bates.  The ironic thing about this is that apparently before he made this movie, he was considered a teen heartthrob.  After the movie, he was type casted as Norman Bates, which was unfortunate.  However he made the character a film icon.

I have to give a nod out to Bernard Herrmann because this movie wouldn’t have had the effect that it did on people without his score.  It adds to the atmosphere of the movie and literally screams at you.  It was also one of my favorite aspects of this movie.

The shower scene speaks for itself.  The silence that endures afterwards is eerie and unnerving.

The parlor scene before that with Marion and Norman is one of my favorites to!  Anthony Perkins is great in this scene.  It’s very creepy with all the shots of the taxidermy birds (it’s worth mentioning that all those birds just so happen to prey on other animals).  There’s also a portrait of “The Rape of Lucretia” and behind that is a peephole that Norman looks through into Marion’s room, which lends to the whole voyeuristic aspect of the movie.  Perkins is very creepy in this scene when his character starts talking about his mother.  There’s so much involved here and it creates a lot of suspense.  It’s definitely one of my favorites.

One thing that I could do without is the scene at the end of the movie where the doctor’s are explaining Norman’s condition.  To me it was too long and took away from the atmosphere of the movie.  A very brief explanation and then a cut to Norman at the very end of the movie would’ve sufficed.

Speaking of the end of the movie, the scene with Norman wrapped in the blanket and “Mother’s” voice over, it is also one of my favorites in the movie.  Every time I watch it, I can’t take my eyes off of the screen.  And that smile that he gives us at the end- so unnerving!

Bottom line is that Psycho is a classic and it’s been an influence to horror (specifically slasher movies) to this day.  If you haven’t had a chance to see it, what are you waiting for?