The Conjuring (New Line Cinema, 2013)
At the risk of sounding overly hyperbolic, The Conjuring is the best Horror film of the past 20 years, hands down. This is true Horror, ladies and gentlemen, with the atmosphere and tension provided by the story and embellished with camera angles and music with only minimal CGI used. No cheap gore, no gratuitous sex, and no swearing, this harkens back to the era of classy, almost elegant Horror movies. This is the story of the Warren family, a couple who investigate ghosts and haunted houses and the like.
The movie starts in 1968 with a pair of roommate nurses giving their account of their doll, Annabelle, who it turns out is possessed. The Warrens are shown interviewing them and they show their story unfold. Fast forward to 1971, and we see a family moving out to the Rhode Island country from Jersey to get away from it all. It is always a bad idea to “get away from it all”. Nothing good ever comes from country living. Horror movies have shown me this. That, coupled with the frighteningly low tech world of 1971 (land lines, no cable TV, no cell phones, no Internet) sends shivers up and down my spine. Old or low technology is evil.
Things immediately go south for the Perron family. The Dad, played by Ron Livingston (best known as Peter from Office Space), finds a loose board in a closet revealing a cellar with the seemingly paint-by-numbers exorcist/ghost story scenarios set up. Things do twist off the beaten path. The thing that I found funny is that everyone looked more '70s than people in the '70s looked. They showed pictures of the real family in the end credits, and they didn't look anywhere near as hip as the cats in the film.
I also found it interesting that the family managed to get reception with their TV antennae out in the country. I remember going to my grandparents' cottage in the late '70s/early '80s and getting poor reception. Isolation in the pre-digital age was terrifying to me then, and it still is now. Millennials will never know what it is like to be truly alone like the family in this film.
While this movie goes to great lengths to maintain the look and feel of 1971, the street signs in the downtown are the larger ones found over the past decade, and the television set looks more like a late '70s floor model. I could be mistaken on the latter, though.
Once they enlist the help of the Warrens, things get cooking. The Warrens are shown helping people, telling them how their house wasn't haunted, rather it was loose boards and leaky pipes in the attic. They were not portrayed as shysters, which endears them to the viewer and removes any shady goings on. Things get serious fast once they arrive at the Perron house. I loved The Amityville Horror Easter egg at the end.
There is a general air of creepiness in this film, which I loved. I actually jumped once and was shocked a few other time. I've seen countless Horror films, and for one to actually get me with a scare and not simple gore is astounding. The past decade has seen something of a resurrection of the classic Horror movie, and The Conjuring is at the very top of the heap.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 5 out of 5.