‘The Conjuring’ revives thrill in horror

The new fright flick is a scary yet swell cinematic experience

SEEING THINGS. Vera Farmiga finds that something small can be hugely scary. All photos by Warner Bros.

MANILA, Philippines – Amusing. That’s a word that comes to mind regarding “The Conjuring,” a horror film that has officially been scaring viewers in the Philippines since Wednesday, August 21.

How can a scary movie that is not “Scary Movie” be amusing? In “The Conjuring’s” case, it’s twofold.

For one thing, watching it in a packed moviehouse means hearing scores of excitable viewers screaming or shrieking at the slightest onscreen provocation — a superb communal experience that domestic viewing can never equal.

Second, there is the litany of comments among those who have seen the flick and lamented that “The Conjuring” is insufficiently freaky, expressing their it-didn’t-scare-me sentiment like a badge of horror honor.

The film’s merits may be arguable, its earned repute as one of the best movies of any genre in 2013 may be premature and no more than hype.

Yet there is no denying that ‘The Conjuring’ is a can’t-miss thrill for bona fide horror film fans.

SUCH A DOLL MOMENT. Here’s looking at you, ‘The Conjuring’ viewer

The film’s value lies primarily in the assured, creative direction of James Wan, who last petrified moviegoers with “Insidious” in 2011 and, further back, with the non-supernatural gorefest of “Saw” in 2004.

For at least the first half of “The Conjuring,” the Malaysian-Australian filmmaker manages to conjure, shall we say, the intended scares without digital effects, opting to jolt spectators through simple yet realistic execution.

Wan must have been inspired by the movie’s central tale, said to be based on true accounts from 1971. Identical twins Chad and Carey Hayes wrote the adapted screenplay.

The bell-bottom decade is as much a “character” in this movie, presenting not just the requisite period details such as housing interiors, hairstyles, and clothing, but also the extraneous features.

These include the superimposed background text that segues into the title card, the title’s logo reminiscent of “The Exorcist,” the camera’s slow zoom-ins, and the eerie quiet that marks many of the scenes.

This all makes for a dated-seeming yet crisp-looking movie, making one scene wherein antique artifacts are discussed seem like a winking joke at the avid viewer.

All this helps to insulate the audience from any familiar 21st-century flourishes — all the better to imbibe the dreadful, inexplicable isolation the characters themselves face.

NOWHERE TO HIDE. Dark times loom for Lily Taylor

As for the frightening moments, “The Conjuring” is as old school as it gets, which, in the wake of computer-generated artifice, is more than welcome for genre fans seeking a genuine, in-seat jolt.

The unfortunate, supposedly true events that the movie depicts, which no sane individual would wish upon their worst enemy, have been portrayed or alluded to in many a past cinematic shocker.

As the film climaxes, a plot point even recalls “Insidious” itself.

Friends who’ve seen this movie have remarked how “The Conjuring” references the classics of the horror genre.

Wan manages to keep things from being, uh, wan, infusing fresh filmmaking vigor while he keeps the film’s gears working.

With his reliable crew and mostly commendable actors — Lili Taylor and Vera Farmiga are standouts — he comes off fairly triumphant in creating one classy horror flick.

On that note, this fright-seeking fogey now envies whoever (of legal age, of course) might happen to have “The Conjuring” as his or her first taste of scare cinema.

One admits that “The Conjuring” is mainly pop entertainment. It bears no immense depth and no desire to be a thought-provoking horror flick in the classical tradition of silent cinema.

It may make viewers wonder and ponder about the supernatural, yet that could be brushed aside, as they relish the wealth of details that are either pronounced or subtle.

(The movie’s scorer himself, Joseph Bishara, provides both pronounced enhancement, through his rarely intrusive score, and a subtle detail, such as his very portrayal of the story’s spookiest character.)

This teaser trailer for ‘The Conjuring’ qualifies as one of the best in the horror genre:

All told, “The Conjuring” is a breath of fresh air into the tired-and-detested big-screen horror scene, and this bodes well for even greater fright heights for Wan.

(His next projects include this year’s “Insidious Chapter 2” and — the horror! — “Fast & Furious 7” in 2014.)

It may not be exceptional, yet the movie is a doll — as in, of the creepy kind seen in the film’s posters — and a horrific hoot. – Rappler.com

 

‘The Conjuring,’ rated PG-13, is now showing in theaters nationwide.

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