Monthly Archives: August 2013

The Conjuring (2013)

Synopsis:

The Warrens, husband and wife paranormal investigators, set out to help a family stricken by a demonic force in their isolated farmhouse.

Review:

The Conjuring as a movie is not original, but it contains creepy motifs and imagery which are uniquely memorable – and it’s these which land the film a spot alongside the likes of Robert Wise’s The Haunting (1963) in haunted-house mythology.

With a cinematography and soundtrack so woven around 70s horror, you could be forgiven for assuming you are settling down to The Amityville Horror. To be sure, both films may share the frankly dubious “true story” tag, but The Conjuring is a far superior film.

All good horror films start with a nerve-shredding prologue. The Conjuring is no different. The film is most similar I suppose to 1982’s “if Disney did horror” Poltergeist. But it’s a hell of a lot darker – not quite the sort of thing that Spielberg would attach himself to. However, James Wan does not settle with renting content on loan from the vault of bygone horror movies. Although, we see references come from as far away as The Birds.

Admittedly, it’s difficult to break new ground in the “creaking door” stakes but Wan manages to do it. This is a frightening movie, in a rather old fashioned way. By that, I mean it’s a jumpy, things that go bump in the night kind of picture. The minimalist soundtrack lets the house talk for itself. But when required the score does the job just perfectly.

The performances from the cast are exceptional which makes the film not only believable – in a way it really shouldn’t be – but also more enticing. This is extremely rare for a horror movie and is actually the main reason that most filmgoers – regardless of whether they are fanboys of horror – enjoyed The Exorcist (1973) despite its demonic theme. Vera Farmiga’s clairvoyant is so realistic that her emotional burdens seem to sit on your own shoulders in the front row.

The “big” scare scenes are so important in haunted house movies because these are the snapshots that we take home with us, the very thing that haunt our dreams afterward. The big scares here are elongated and elaborate set pieces which hold the whole thing together – they aren’t the cheap shocks peppered throughout lesser movies of this type.

The room – or perhaps ‘museum’ is more appropriate – in the Warrens’ house containing the haunted trinkets of past investigations is a magical insertion into a film already bleached with dark enchantment.

My only gripe with The Conjuring stems from the CGI apparitions. We don’t need to see the vengeful spirits at all  – in fact when we have yet to spy them the movie is a hell of a lot scarier – and Wan should have learned this from his previous bash at a similar story in insidious.

The Conjuring contains no sexual scenes, no gore, no adult language or any other attributable which would render it a 15 certificate. That certificate seems to be given on scares alone.

There has been much hype about The Conjuring and for once it appears this was in good faith. A well-directed piece of horror cinema which I am sure over time will emerge as a minor classic. As will that image of the porcelain doll in her glass case…

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Hotdog rating: 9/10

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Hitchcock art

Hitchcock art

I thought this was rather fetching. love the Jimmy Stewart camera linking Rear Window with North by Northwest. great detail all round.

Rope (1948) apartment

 Rope (1948) apartment

I just love this. saw it earlier.

The Unforgiven (1960)

 

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Synopsis:

A small settler community tears itself apart when rumours circulate that Burt Lancaster’s sister (Audrey Hepburn) is actually a ‘red-skin’. When Indians come to claim her, trouble begins.

Review:

John Huston’s sensitive western has been mostly considered as a pale imitation and a reverse telling of genre classic  “The Searchers” (1956).

Burt Lancaster’s authoritative, if complicated, performance is more than matched by an insatiably rabid Audie Murphy as his loose-cannon brother. Lillian Gish sparkles as the family matriarch harbouring an old secret. I’m not sure if Audrey Hepburn is believable as a ‘red skin’ but she doesn’t need to be.

The star performer is surely Joseph Wiseman, whose evangelical one-eyed civil war veteran struts around the plain espousing a bitter vendetta against Hepburn and her family. Whilst, the stand-out set-piece has Gish play the piano on the prairie as Indians gather a war party for an attack on her farmhouse. However, Huston’s greatest achievement is in the morality of the tale and the richest scenes force the viewer to question who the heroes are in the picture. I’d likely consider this movie one of the first serious entries in the revisionist sub-genre.

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There are negatives. The relationship between Hepburn and Lancaster is a little close to incest, even though they aren’t blood relatives, for my taste and it unsettled me. It also dilutes your appreciation of the chemistry between Lancaster and Hepburn.  Furthermore, the attack on the homestead at the film’s close straddles the stereotypical ‘indians-ride-round-in-circles-while-settlers-take-pot-shots-from-behind-a-wagon’ scenario too heavily.

This isn’t the best Western you’ll ever see, but is worthy of a genuine reappraisal. An under-valued film.

Hotdog rating: 8/10