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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Aug 27, 2013

The Conjuring Review: A Haunted House Movie That Really Works

JAMES WAN is a noted horror film director who did the slasher-torture porn flick, “Saw” (but not the sequels), and the ghost story, “Insidious”, both of which we didn’t find scary at all. This time, he gets it right in “The Conjuring”, a haunted house movie that really works. It introduces a real life married couple in the 70s who specialized on paranormal activities and exorcism, Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga), who investigated the Amityville Horror hoax.

The movie opens in 1968 with a case of real life haunting when two nurses encounter a spooked doll called Annabelle. The doll is being kept by the Warrens in a special museum of haunted artifacts inside their own home. The movie then introduces us to a family, the Perrons, who moves in into this big old colonial house in rural Massachusetts in 1971. The mom and dad (Lilli Taylor and Ron Livingston) have five pretty daughters. The photos of the real family to whom the story happened are shown at the end of the movie.

Soon after they moved in, strange things start happening around them. First, their family dog refuses to enter the house and dies. Then, they discover secret passages to a cellar and a sleepwalking daughter wants to enter an old dresser that seems to be inhabited by a mysterious entity. Another daughter complains of someone pulling her leg while she’s asleep on her bed, while the mom keeps on having suspicious bruises on her arms and body.

The wife seeks the help of the Warrens who tell them there are three stages to a haunting: infestation, oppression and possession. Eventually, someone in the household does get possessed.

As usual, there are scenes where you know that danger is lurking very much around but the characters involved continue to investigate on their own. Well, let’s just accept the fact that movies like this won’t get to scare us without these characters who make some stupid moves. Of course, they also employ the usual jump scare tactics involving loud noises and blaring music, with frightening entities suddenly jumping into the camera.

And it works as the audience really screamed several times when we watched this at an SM Cinema, particularly in the Hide and Clap game where a ghost participates. The director really knows how to manipulate viewers by using all tricks of the trade, some of which were derived from other movies like “The Changeling” and “The Exorcist”, enhanced by astute camera placements and movements for maximum spookiness, to increase the level of suspense and tension.

The acting is good, especially by Vera Farmiga as Lorraine. She makes a good team with Patrick Wilson (also the star of Director Wan’s “Insidious” and its sequel that will be released soon). You can really believe that they’re a loving couple who genuinely want to help people in trouble. Lilli Taylor is also superb as the mom harassed by evil spirits. All the daughters also do well, especially Joey King (Channing Tatum’s daughter in “White House Down”) as the girl whose leg is repeatedly pulled by the unseen ghost. For those who enjoy having a good scare, this is a don’t miss flick that is given a neat ending, without the usual cheapo twists now so common in fright flicks of this sort.