Not much conjuring, not much scaring either

Featuring

Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson as Lorraine and Ed Warren
Lili Taylor and Ron Livingstone as Carolyn and Roger Peron
with Joseph Bishara as Bathsheban

The title of the movie is pretty misleading. There’s no evocation, summoning or anything of that sort, but there is possession by evil spirit. James Wan, who directed and conceived of such good horror films as Saw and Insidious has added this to his portfolio. The hype was there, billed as so scary it earned an R rating in the US. Is the movie really any good? Let’s find out.

The movie is set in the early 1970s when the husband and wife couple of Ed and Lorraine Warren are at the height of their ghost busting powers. We start with the case of a couple of flat mates who have a haunted doll that fortunately for them is easily taken care of by the Warrens. We flip between their story and that of the Perrons who unknowingly move into a haunted house on Rhode Island. The Perrons, predictably experience some pretty scary poltergeisting from the evil spirit.

The Warrens get involved and do their thing to try to help the Perrons by first finding out if it’s haunted, and if it is, what’s haunting the place (it turns out to be an evil Satan worshiping witch). Then they try to get the house exorcised to save the Perron family. And I just realised I’ve competely summed up the entire movie’s plot. Right. Moving on then.

The question posed is whether the movie is any good. I think that the first half of the movie, the creeping, sinister feeling of the house and the helplessness of its inhabitants is done very well. But the introduction of the Warrens into the mix, well, it really takes the fear factor out of it. Firstly, if you’re living in a house and you need a change in underwear every few hours due to an evil spirit and you have expert ghost busters staying with you, the tension’s pretty much gone. Even if something scary happens, which inevitably it does, the ghost busters have it covered. This part of the movie falls a bit flat and stops being scary.

This brings me to another point. Demons, spirits and ghosts are really dumb in movies. I mean they can see these pesky human ghost busters setting up things in the house to try to find them. Why not just lay low for a while until the ghost busters are gone before they resume their antics? They’re (un)dead and have all the time in the world. Why demonstrate to outsiders that there’s actually some supernatural goings on when the proof can be recorded? The evil spirit here falls into exactly the same trap as every other before it.

I thought the final, climatic scene is the best part of the movie (I mean, you’d hope so, right?). It creates the kind of tension you need and the special effects are well used. I also think that the colour palette really brought out the 70s…although Patrick Wilson’s hair style…didn’t. The movie was nowhere near as scary as it was billed and those fizzled out after the mystery of the haunting was solved and the plot then became a race to get rid of the evil witch spirit.

All in all, it was a pretty by the book western horror movie. There’s a haunting, the mystery is solved and the evil spirit is vanquished. It doesn’t create any new mythology, yet relies on exaggerated Christian historical references for a mythology, unlike (somewhat ironically) Insidious the previous effort from James Wan and Patrick Wilson. That movie created a real sense of dread an unease with its costuming and design and I really felt unnerved by the encounters the characters had with those from the netherworld. I just wish this movie had the same effect. It might even have been scary.

Rating

It’s not as scary as the hype, but then, it’s also not as good. Actually, it’s a bit cliche…

Should I watch this?

As horror movies go, you could do worse. In the same way as having to live in a creepy old house is better than living in a cardboard box in an alley.

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