Craig's First Take: "The Conjuring"

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Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren work to help a family terrorized by a dark presence in their farmhouse. Forced to confront a powerful entity, the Warrens find themselves caught in the most terrifying case of their lives.
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Let’s face it, ghosts are just d*&^%. From the way they seem to target small children, the way they just toy with whoever new comes in contact with them, and, especially, in the case of “Paranormal Activity”, the fact that they’re the most predictable camera-whores around. But probably even more so in “The Conjuring” because they can vomit into the mouths of human characters, and apparently still have the ability to fart in someones face.

Their target here is the Perron’s, Roger (Ron Livingston, “Office Space”), Carolyn (Lilli Taylor, “The Haunting”), and their army of daughters who seem to multiply more and more in every scene. “The Conjuring” is supposedly a true story that took place in 1971 of what happened to them when they moved into a secluded Rhode Island farm house, which can neither be confirmed or denied, but based on how many familiar sequences there are in this movie, you would think they sold the story years ago.

Carolyn gets mysterious bruises, birds fly into the house, doors move on their own, there seems to be another presence involved when the girls play their hide, seek, and clap game, there could be something under the bed, there is a creepy doll that always hangs around. Director James Wan, known for the “Saw” and “Insidious” horror films, seems more concerned with mood in the early going, too bad that mood is a feeling of déjà vu.

But the bigger deal here is real life ghost hunting couple the Warrens, Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga), who supposedly have a room in their house filled with nothing but possessed artifacts from their paranormal adventures dating back to the 1960’s. These two were also involved with “The Amityville Horror” case, which has been refuted by quite a few critics and even forensic evidence. It’s easy to be skeptical about them and here, when they say things like bad smells in the house represent demonic activity, they seem even less genuine. But soon they’re outfitting the Perron house with cameras, hoping to catch a glimpse and exorcise the witch family that inhabited the house before.

Is any of it scary? Well much of the bigger shocks have been shown in the trailer, most others seem telegraphed in advance, and the ending is over-the-top ridiculous as people are thrown around and every horror movie from “The Exorcist” to “The Birds” is put into play. The ghostly make-up, when you can see it through the dark or in the too-brief close-ups, looks pretty good though.

But “The Conjuring” would have been a much cooler and unique movie had the filmmakers gone the route of a documentary (would have loved to see some real footage) rather than something written by the two hack screenwriters (Chad and Carey Hayes) who wrote “House of Wax” and “The Reaping.”