Scary scenes for the sus­cep­ti­ble

The Con­jur­ing Only God For­gives

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film - Evan Wil­liams

(MA15+) ★★★✩✩ National re­lease

Limited re­lease

L(MA15+) ★★

✩✩ IKE most supernatural hor­ror films, The Con­jur­ing is said to be based on real events. And as usual, I have a prob­lem. Those will­ing to be­lieve in ghosts, ghouls, evil spir­its and de­monic pos­ses­sion may ac­cept that ev­ery­thing in The Con­jur­ing ac­tu­ally hap­pened, and may find the movie a great deal more fright­en­ing on that ac­count. It pro­claims its bona fides in the open­ing cred­its, which as­sure us that the events of the story are au­then­ti­cally based on the case files of Ed War­ren, the most re­spected ghost hunter in the US. But for those of a scep­ti­cal frame of mind, this is rather like say­ing the events of the James Bond movies are au­then­ti­cally based on the writ­ings of Ian Flem­ing. You can make of them what you will.

Ed War­ren wouldn’t use the term ghosthunter. He calls him­self a de­mo­nolo­gist — the only one of­fi­cially ‘‘ recog­nised by the Catholic Church’’ (as those cred­its point out). He lec­tures on de­monology at a univer­sity in Mas­sachusetts (more than once we see him be­fore a class of at­ten­tive stu­dents) and main­tains a pri­vate mu­seum stocked with ghostly mem­o­ra­bilia ac­quired dur­ing his in­ves­ti­ga­tions. In The Con­jur­ing, Ed and his wife, Lor­raine, are played by Pa­trick Wil­son and Vera Farmiga, and come across as em­i­nently sen­si­ble, level-headed folk, not eas­ily taken in by ru­mour, hearsay or hys­te­ria. To­gether they founded the New Eng­land So­ci­ety for Psy­chi­cal Re­search. How could we doubt their word?

Among the first cases in­ves­ti­gated by the War­rens was that of the Lutz fam­ily, whose story was told in The Ami­tyville Hor­ror, the clas­sic Hol­ly­wood supernatural thriller that has spawned no fewer than a dozen se­quels, re­makes and spin-offs since its re­lease in 1979. It’s a fair bet that much of what you see in The Con­jur­ing you will have al­ready seen in The Ami­tyville Hor­ror. And if you missed it in The Ami­tyville Hor­ror you will have seen it in The Ex­or­cist, or The Shin­ing, or The Omen, or The Haunting, or in Sin­is­ter, or in one of the many in­stal­ments of Para­nor­mal Ac­tiv­ity. There’s a cer­tain time­less qual­ity about ghosts and ghoulies; like supernatural hor­ror films, they never re­ally change.

Ac­cord­ing to the stan­dard for­mula, a cou­ple move into a house only to dis­cover, too late, that it’s haunted. In­stead of head­ing for the near­est mo­tel while they look for an­other place to live, they stay where they are, ea­ger to ex­plore base­ments, at­tics and other for­bid­ding places in the dead of night. The cou­ple in The Con­jur­ing are Roger and Carolyn Per­ron (Ron Liv­ingston and Lili Tay­lor), who move into an old farm­house in Rhode Is­land with their five daugh­ters. The year is 1971. Like the War­rens, the Per­rons are real peo­ple — straight-up, un­hys­ter­i­cal all-Amer­i­can types — and with five daugh­ters we know they’re in for a rough time.

Mak­ers of hor­ror films love hav­ing small chil­dren in their casts. With their vivid imag­i­na­tions kids are eas­ily scared; young au­di­ences read­ily iden­tify with them and share their ter­rors. The most trau­matic im­ages in Spiel­berg’s Juras­sic Park were tar­geted at kids. I have of­ten thought that sub­ject­ing small chil­dren to ter­ri­fy­ing ex­pe­ri­ences, even in works of fic­tion, is a form of child abuse. Who knows what hor­rific im­pres­sions the films leave on young minds?

The good news is noth­ing in The Con­jur­ing is very scary. As I say, we’ve seen it all be­fore. The di­rec­tor is the Aus­tralian James Wan, pi­o­neer of the phe­nom­e­nally suc­cess­ful Saw fran­chise. The Saw films (six at last count) are ex­er­cises in sado-porn in which in­no­cent peo­ple are tor­tured in hideously in­ven­tive ways.

But good supernatural hor­ror de­mands some­thing more sub­tle than blood and gore. Watch­ing The Con­jur­ing, I had the im­pres­sion Wan would have loved to have thrown in some graphic be­head­ings, dis­mem­ber­ments and im­pale­ments, in­stead of hav­ing to rely those au­then­tic War­ren case files with their creak­ing doors, dark cor­ri­dors, locked cup­boards and things that go bump in the night. (Why is it so cold in here and what’s that funny smell?)

The film has a cer­tain vis­ual el­e­gance and the char­ac­ters are en­gag­ing. Wan made a pass­ably ef­fec­tive supernatural thriller in In­sid­i­ous, which also starred Pa­trick Wil­son. But is his heart re­ally in it this time? He wraps things up with an over­wrought ex­or­cism se­quence, per­formed not by the lo­cal priest (Steve Coul­ter) but by Ed

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.