Horrorfest 2015 Presents: The Conjuring (2013, James Wan)


Sporting a talented cast and channeling precious classic horror films The Conjuring is a near great film. James Wan seems to have a knack for horror, having also directed others such as Saw  and Insidious. Reportedly based on the cast files of a pair of psychic researchers named Ed and Lorraine Warren (played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga), this is a really freaky and entertaining movie. The 1970s setting is  a bonus, and I do like how this film answers the question of all haunting films: why don’t the people just leave? As in the good horror films the answer isn’t simple, and the solution may be unpleasant.

Having previously dealt with a creepy looking doll (interestingly the most eerie thing in the entire movie) called Annabelle, the Warrens seem content to rest and spend time with their daughter. However a Rhode Island couple named Roger and Carolyn Perron (Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor) approach them in a desperate bid to defeat the malevolent spirit that may be threatening them and their children. Naturally there are horror cliches such as the dog refusing to enter the house (dogs always sense the evil, don’t they?) and strange sounds echoing throughout the house. Wan uses plenty of slow burn and intense close up shots to make the audience feel as if they are in the house, and he actually doesn’t abuse jump scares or offer cheap moments, something that too many directors overuse in movies such as this one. Also it helps that the cast is all top notch, as Livingston and Wilson have also appeared in horror movies and Farmiga has a knack for playing both strong and vulnerable. However it is Taylor, who also starred in the remake of The Haunting, who is the main attraction of this movie. She has the difficult task of playing a woman that at first wonders if she is crazy, then slowly accepts what is going on, and in the end is forced to deal with the evil on a personal level.

Thanks to this movie I will never be able to think about a game of hide and seek again, not to mention whenever I hear multiple clapping. Plus I dug the scenes where the Warrens host question and answer sessions with local colleges, as they show footage of some of their encounters. The film even uses found footage style film making at one point with a valid reason to do so, which is cool too. Whether or not the actual incident in question ever happened I’m not sure, yet I am curious to learn more about the Warrens and I look forward to the planned sequel, which will feature both Wilson and Farmiga returning along with Wan, who is a promising young horror film maker in his own right. Also this film has a great original score, something that is worth mentioning as not too many modern horror films have exceptional original scores or original scores in general. This one does.

Horrorfest 2015 Presents: Campfire Tales (1997, Matt Cooper, Martin Kunert, and David Semel)


Overall this isn’t a bad anthology even though some of the tales are stronger than others. Also the overall wrap around story has what is now considered to be a cliche twist. I wanted to really like this film yet Campfire Tales is not consistent and has only really great story out of the whole bunch. Too bad since focusing on urban legends is a cool idea. Which reminds me that I need to watch Urban Legend at some point.

The film opens with a good yet very short tale, called The Hook. It’s a nice creepy beginning and is also notable for staring Amy Smart and James Marsden before either one became famous. This segways into the main wrap around story, called The Campfire, which stars Christine Taylor as one of the four young adults that share stories after surviving a car crash.

Now the best story of the bunch is The Honeymoon, which stars Ron Livingston and Jennifer Macdonald as a couple that have the misfortune to break down in the desert. It’s a really frightening entry and is mostly responsible for the film’s barely fresh rating. This is followed by People Can Lick Too, which although merely solid/good has a nice buildup leading to an eerie conclusion and is a modern day twist on an old tale.

Unfortunately the last story, The Locket, is really boring which is a shame considering it stars Glenn Quinn. Nothing of note really happens and the twist is rather awful in terms of being a bad attempt at shock value. Better anthology choices exist out there although Campfire Tales is not a complete waste of time.

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