Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Conjuring: So Close

So apparently the rumors are true---you should NOT put tin foil in the microwave. And also…The Conjuring is pretty terrifying. Oh and also--if you are not Catholic you are in deep shit.

I think I may be the last person on Earth to see The Conjuring. I'm judging this based on the fact that almost everyone I've come into contact with in the past few months has asked me if I've seen this including: people I work with, my mother's cat and a homeless man on the street corner who looks like Snoop Dogg. Why haven't I seen it? Probably because I heard it was scary and because I just don't have a lot of time in between sitting on my butt watching TV shows and working a job to drag myself to a movie. Also because seeing horror movies in the theater doesn't sit well with my bladder. Loud sounds are no good. No good. Good thing I avoided this when it came out in theaters, otherwise I probably would not be here today to tell the tale.

Although The Conjuring is extremely effective I will still naturally find ways to complain about it. I think though after watching it a second-ish time these are somewhat minor but I find that they contain to irk me. So in case you are one of those people who hates movies that everyone else likes--or a terrorist, just hang out a minute and we'll come to the part where I say things that I didn't like.

For the most part, The Conjuring exists in the James Wan canon as something almost 100% great. For those keeping track. Saw and Dead Silence were and continue to be awful. Insidious was almost really great then totally bombed in the latter half. And now The Conjuring is almost like what happens to a Insidious after it goes through a movie workshop and finally takes my advice. It combined the things I tend to like about a James Wan film with things that are improvements I wish he would make. Yes, things still tend to get a little too complicated but ultimately this is top notch stuff.

My main complaint of Insidious was that there wasn't enough 'quiet' horror going on. Horror that is not supplemented by scary faces, loud crescendos and fake outs. The beginning of The Conjuring however is almost like a perfect example of how to do quiet horror right. I found looking back at a few key scenes, that the ones that left me in the most anguish where ones where we didn't necessarily see or understand what was happening. The best example is probably when Christine wakes up in the middle of night and is traumatized by 'someone standing behind the door'. The other sister Nancy wakes up and tells her nothing is there, but the fear in Christine's eyes is so real we are positive that a scary demon face is going to erupt out of the darkness at any moment. But---it doesn't. Christine continues to be terrified while Nancy stands obliviously in front of the supposed person and/or demon.

That is not to say that the scenes where we do get to see something aren't scary. I'm sure I don't have to tell you that this scene

 successfully introduced me to the age old problem of really having to pee but not getting up to go to the bathroom in fear that a scary demon witch is waiting in the shower to kill you. That stuff is and will probably always be terrifying. But I think the mix between kind of an invisible demonic force and a sometimes visible demonic force mostly worked for the film. It was a fairly solid balance that forced you to really be on your highest alert.

I also enjoyed the somewhat unique ways that the commonly scary tropes were used. The clapping game for instance--how torturous! And then the evil music box and its shenanigans. And of course my personal favorite (least favorite) fear---people hanging.

The Conjuring also brings back one of my very favorite horror tropes---creaky doors and random appearances of a child's ball.

Which reminds me--someday when I'm lonely and depressed I think I'll compile a list of all the horror movie nods in The Conjuring. I counted quite a few while not really meaning to. Imagine what would happen if I stopped concentrating on how badly I had to pee and started concentrating on the actual movie and what horror movie it was referencing!

Alright enough lovey dubey crap. A few irksome bits that I need to air out.

1. The very beginning of the film and the continued emphasis of the Anabel doll throughout the rest of the film really bothered me.

I think because the doll and the design of the doll brought me back to the annoyance I felt during Dead Silence. I get that it was used as a way to really bring home the idea of a demonic spirit latching itself onto something and 'infesting' someone's life but it really rubbed me the wrong way. I also hated that part where Bathsheba decided to start terrorizing Lorraine and Ed's daughter and was brushing the dolls hair in the chair. I feel like it totally took away from everything happening in the house. AND it brought the stupid Anabel doll back into the picture. WHY does the Anabel doll have to look like it got into some gothic kid's makeup drawer?

WHY can't they just let a regular doll BE creepy? And while we're at it, who would keep a room full of things possessed by demons in their own home? It's called a storage locker Ed.

2.  The last bit of the film--the 'exorcism' felt a little too chaotic and well….bat shit crazy to me. I think things just got a little carried away. I'm still not convinced that Ed has the power to successfully perform an exorcism and that you can actually conquer a really evil demon by reminiscing about a nice day at the beach. I guess this is no one's fault though--because as much as I loved all the build up it had to go somewhere right? And yes, it was nowhere near as kooky as the end of Insidious but still---vomiting blood etc., yikes.

3. I am sad that the other spirits in the house did not get a lot of attention. Bathsheba ruins everything.

4. I really detested the way that film nicely slipped in the little fact that being baptized and believing in God will help your chances against the devil, Not to mention Ed Warren's little quote at the end that reaffirms the point. It suddenly made me feel like Lorraine and Ed Warren were nothing more than crazy bible thumpers.

And then it made me believe in the 'true story' aspect of the film even less than I already did (which is not much).

5. That reminds me. I think I would have liked this even better if the whole 'true story' propaganda wasn't a major part of the marketing or beginning of the film. The true story edge usually works to a film's favor (Paranormal Activity, the Blair Witch Project) if the events that unfold in the movie still are somewhat believable. If The Conjuring relied heavily on the invisible demons and dark forces I think it would have been OK. But here there's like rotting smelly old demon witches leaping off evil dressers, and really fat ladies in the basement crying about shit---it just makes me feel like hmmm…all the events in this were verified by Lorraine Warren huh? Right…………

So then if there wasn't this whole emphasis on this thing really happening I think I would have been even more scared instead of dubious. You know?

Alright I guess that's enough negativity. Like I said The Conjuring is almost 100% effective. The scares were usually legitimate and always creative. Yes, I was continuously scared out of my mind and had to watch at least 30 minutes of 'I Don't Know How She Does It' before I could turn off the TV and go to the bathroom. Yes, I still am finding it difficult to close my eyes and not see Bathsheba getting ready to vomit blood into my mouth. And yes now I think I will start asking random strangers if they've seen this so we can bond over the fact that we may or may not have pooped our pants.


Tom Clark said...

"Horror that is not supplemented by scary faces, loud crescendos and fake outs."

This is what UK critics Mark Kermode and Nigel Floyd refer to as "Cattle Prod Cinema", or a whole lot of lazy "quiet quiet quiet quiet... BANG!" moments which is pretty much the only trick James Wan seems to have up his sleeve. Check this out:

CashBailey said...

Anyone who says this movie is based on a true story is an utter moron.

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