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The Conjuring (2013)

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It wasn’t the first, nor will it be the last time this frequently treaded fable gets a slightly altered, cinematic treatment. Nevertheless, James Wan’s “The Conjuring” is a tension-filled, unrelentingly terrifying spook-fest that trades in buckets of gore and excessive violence for old-fashion scares that effectively and completely paralyze the viewer in fear. Complimented by a cast that fully invest in their characters and give it their all. “The Conjuring” is a devilishly authentic, heart-stopping haunted house story that is surprisingly and thankfully refreshing. While it may not be a universally acclaimed instant classic, it’s pretty damn close. There is no denying its solidness or steady stream of constsnt fright, nor the fact that Wan is one of the best in the genre currently and is heading in the right direction. “The Conjuring” is the creepy thought you try to forget, but can never quite shake.

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In 1971, the Perron family move into a rickety, depleted farmhouse in Harrisville, Rhode Island. Soon, the family begins to experience strange events like unexplainable bruises, tugging, and the death of their dog. Later, one of the daughters is attacked by a mysterious entity and the Perron’s seek the help of Ed and Lorraine Warren, who are noted paranormal investigators. Upon arriving and searching the grounds, the couple come to the conclusion that there is an evil spirit dwelling inside the Perron family’s house. Now, Ed, Lorraine, and the Perron family must work with a few volunteers to rid their house of this malevolent spirit.

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. What makes a horror film genuinely   petrifying is the level of believability and empathy it’s characters are able to evoke from the audience. The more the viewer relates and sympathizes with the tormented, the more chilling, disheartening, and horrifying the tormentor and its results become. Wan has seemingly always understood this well, but it appears that in his most recent efforts such as “Insidious” and now “The Conjuring,” he’s eking closer and closer to perfecting this most necessary genre tactic. With “The Conjuring” Wan encases all his characters with this honest authenticity, even the paranormal entity. And what you’re left with is a complex cocktail of emotion and dread that bores down into the roots of the viewers. Effectively disengaging their ability to differentiate film from reality, ultimately allowing the film to transcend the screen and sincerely scare.

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Whether you believe the hoopla surrounding “The Conjuring” to be true or not is basically irrelevant. The film is nightmarish enough on its own, let alone the addition of it possibly being fact. Of course I am talking about the real Ed and Lorraine Warren, their encounters, and the film’s source material. Apparently the film is a dramatic retelling of the Warren’s life-work, in particular the Perron family case. Essentially what I’m driving at is that “The Conjuring” is supposedly based on a true story. I’ve done some research into the couples storied history and their experiences, somewhere between enough to keep me informed and not scared half-to-death for the rest of my existence. And while I’ve never experienced first-hand interactions with the paranormal (I hope I never do). It seems as if they’ve had their fair-share of communication and physical clairvoyance with the paranormal, which is just…terrific. Now “The Conjuring” is even more utterly terrifying and startling. Obviously, research and judge for yourself.

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There is a vast difference between being able to create subtlety and explosiveness and knowing how to use these facets to one’s advantage. James Wan is in complete control of his films and “The Conjuring” is no exception. Wan knows when to fluidly open a creaky wooden door and when not to. As simple as it may sound, a lot of filmmakers can’t effectively place even the most played-out and mundane of cinematic tactics, this is not the case with James Wan. His camera work is as swift and seamless as ever. Tossing some sly, simplistic scares into an old, rickety farmhouse with a few unnerving sounds here and there, in addition to a possession that rivals “The Exorcist.” Wan has spawned a haunted-house flick that looks primed to enter the horror canon soon enough.

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Atmosphere and horror really do go hand-in-hand. A big reason for this is a mix of visuals with a beautifully ambient, yet unsettling score to accompany it. This is the second collaboration for James Wan and composer Joseph Bishara, who initially teamed up for 2010’s frightening hit “Insidious.” Although Bishara’s original soundtrack for “The Conjuring” isn’t as phantasmagoric or memorable as 2010s “Insidious,” it’s still fairly alarming and intoxicating. Check out all of Bishara’s work if you get the chance, a very talented man.

Of course, what horror film would be complete without its unfortunate victims? Someone to witness the door eerily crack open, hear a repetitive noise down the hallway, or succumb to a shadowy entity. Someone needs to keep the devil company and it surely isn’t me. Luckily “The Conjuring” has found its fair share of talented souls to deal with the paranormal. Starring Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Ron Livingston, and an unheralded, courageous supporting cast. James Wan and associates appear fortunate enough to have conjured up a cast as crazy and brave as they are. The Perron family, although portrayed well, is sparsely used. That being said, Livingston and his family do an outstanding job making the fear real and pull hard on the viewers heart-strings. Making for a meaningful and frightening ghost story.

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It still astounds me how Patrick Wilson continually manages to fly under the radar. After giving brilliant performances in “Watchmen” and “Little Children,” in addition to a plethora of smaller, yet significant roles. You’d think that filmmakers would take notice of his talent and how he makes everything look so effortless. Nonetheless, Wilson gives another firm, heartfelt, and intimidating performance here and will hopefully proceed forward later this year when he teams up once again with James Wan for “Insidious: Chapter 2.” As for the other heavyweight, Vera Farmiga, I feel that she’s still flip-flopping. For an actress who has given immaculate portrayals in “The Departed” and “Source Code,” she still sprinkles an odd choice here and there. Don’t get me wrong, she’s terrific in “The Conjuring,” I’d just like to see a little more consistency.

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Gleefully scary and decidedly heartfelt. James Wan’s “The Conjuring” is proof that the genre isn’t dying, even though it may feel like a blast from the past.

The Conjuring: 8.5 out of 10.

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Insidious (2010)

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Further cementing James Wan as a ghoulish advocate for the revival of modern horror. Insidious is overflowing with dismembered phantoms, old-school scares, and heartbreakingly sympathetic performances from its entire cast. Yet, despite all these positives, it’s Wan and writer Leigh Whannell’s clever, fantastical finale that provides the most hope for the future of the genre. Of course, being able to strike up a believable relationship from its two adult leads doesn’t hurt Insidious’s effectiveness either. While it may spend a sizeable chunk of it’s runtime investing in the mental state and connectivity of its characters. The benefit of swapping out a few of its frightening facets for emotional commitment and an empathetic audience heavily outweighs any opinions that the film lacks consistent scares…Please, take it from me, Insidious is plenty terrifying.

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Josh (Wilson) and his wife Renai (Bryne) move into a new house with their three children. One day, their son Dalton goes exploring in the attic and falls, hitting his head fairly hard on the floor. Upon sitting up, Dalton notices something spooky in a dark corner of the attic and screams until his parents find him. That night, Dalton falls asleep and doesn’t wake in the morning. After rushing to the doctors, Renai and Josh are informed that Dalton is in a coma and that the cause of it is unknown. A few months later, Renai claims to see apparitions and forces the family to up and move to a new house. When things begin to escalate and become more terrifyingly severe in the new house, they decide to consult the expertise of Josh’s mother and her friend Elise (Shaye), who is somewhat of a ghost hunter. What the family and experts uncover is something dark and brooding.

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From the moment Insidious begins, the eerie music and creepy camerawork blend into a disturbing concoction that poison’s the viewer throughout the entire film, until they’re begging for an antidote. The remedy, in a way, is the healing and endearing performances of Insidious’s talented cast. Starring Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, and Lin Shaye, there is no shortage of relatable characters. Byrne is tenacious while still remaining admirable and Wilson is ferocious, skeptically unforgiving. Every little detail or feeling these two emit to one another or their children is never in question. As for Shaye, her favour and like-ability is unlimited. Even though her character might come off as a bit whacky and obscure. These personality traits seem to work decidedly in her favour.

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Director James Wan once again teams up with Leigh Whannell to create a truly unique and terrifying adventure. Seemingly perfecting his dialogue and the disturbing oddities in his craft. Whannell has come a long way since his Saw days and appears to be rounding into impeccable form. As for James Wan, his camerawork and the tremendous demeanour in which he functions behind the scenes is reaching new, dizzying heights. Whannell and Wan are on the fast track to becoming a powerful, intelligent duo not to be trifled with and Insidious magnifies their growing greatness.

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Without question, my favourite sequence from Insidious is when Rose Byrne is alone, cleaning the house listening to Nuvole Bianche on a record player. It’s relentlessly unsettling, epically ghastly, and continuously scary for roughly fifteen minutes.

With a soundtrack that puts you on edge and leaves your skin crawling with goosebumps, grand performances, outstanding direction, and a story equally heartfelt and scary. Insidious is nearly faultless in every aspect.

Insidious: 8.5 out of 10.

Top 10 Emerging Directors

C’mon guys, we all know the truth. As cinephiles, we are apart of a very select group that don’t joke around about movies, unless they’re directed by Michael Bay. The sad truth is that not everyone is as inclined to obsess over cinema as we are. At times they can’t differentiate what is a truly good film and which is bad. After recently speaking to people I know at random about the film industry, I realized that not a lot of people are familiar with the actors on screen, let alone the people behind the camera. This list is for all of you out there who have better things to do than compile a cinematic top 10, essentially those who have a life, unlike me.

This list isn’t about household names like Martin Scorsese or Steven Spielberg. This list is about the up and comers, those who’ve solidified a base for themselves and that we look forward to seeing add and build on top of it. Again, as always this is my personal list, not the opinion of the general public. So, let’s get started.

10: James Wan.

Why you should know him: Saw (2004) and Insidious (2010).

What to expect from him: The Conjuring (2013) and Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013).

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9: Ben Wheatley.

Why you should know him: Sightseers (2012) and Kill List (2011).

What to expect from him: A Field in England (2013).

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8: Rian Johnson.

Why you should know him: Looper (2012).

What to expect from him: Nothing in the works as of the moment.

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7: Joss Whedon.

Why you should know him. The Avengers (2012) and Much Ado About Nothing (2012).

What to expect from him: The Avengers 2 (2015).

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6: Edgar Wright.

Why you should know him: Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Hot Fuzz (2007).

What to expect from him: The World’s End (2013) and Ant-Man (2015).

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5: Derek Cianfrance.

Why you should know him: Blue Valentine (2010) and The Place Beyond the Pines (2012).

What to expect from him: Nothing scheduled as of the moment.

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4: Duncan Jones.

Why you should know him: Moon (2009) and Source Code (2011).

What to expect from him: Warcraft (2015).

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3: Nicolas Winding Refn.

Why you should know him: Bronson (2008) and Drive (2011).

What to expect from him: Only God Forgives (2013).

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2: Steve McQueen.

Why you should know him: Hunger (2008) and Shame (2011).

What to expect from him: Twelve Years a Slave (2013).

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1: Jeff Nichols.

Why you should know him: Shotgun Stories (2007) and Take Shelter (2011).

What to expect from him: Mud (2012-2013).

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If you feel that I’ve overlooked someone or have an issue with the top 10 feel free to comment below. Actually if you have anything to say comment below. Have a good weekend :).

Top 10 Most Anticipated Films of 2013

All right, now, not to be confused with last week’s “Top 10 Films of 2013 Predicted.” This week’s Top 10 will consist of the 10 most wanted films set for release in 2013. Judged by budget, publicity, and overall excitement stemming from the general public, this Top 10 will feature, in a general sense, crowd pleasers. Without any further ado, let’s begin.

Honourable Mentions: Anchorman 2, Monsters University, The Wolverine, Elysium, Sin City 2, Kick Ass 2, Evil Dead.

10: Thor: The Dark World. The hotly anticipated follow up to 2011’s smash hit Thor. This soon to be blockbuster stars Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Idris Elba, Tom Hiddleston, and Anthony Hopkins.

9: The Great Gatsby. From visionary director Baz Luhrmann and starring a plethora of stars such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan. and Jason Clarke. The Great Gatsby seems primed for stardom.

8: The Green Inferno, V/H/S 2, and The Conjuring. This is for all of you who need your horror fix, a lot like us. Coming from modern horror master such as James Wan, Eli Roth, and Adam Wingard. This trio of frightening delights is sure to leave your pants wet and in need of a wash.

The Conjuring Trailer:

V/H/S 2 Trailer:

The Green Inferno: First official picture.

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7: This is the End and The World’s End. Here to get you prepared for the apocalypse are these two doomsday comedies. Brought to you by the guys behind Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. The World’s End reunites Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Edgar Wright. Also starring Martin Freeman, The World’s End looks like to become another cult favourite. As for This is the End, starring a multitude of comedies best such as Seth Rogen, James Franco, and Jonah Hill. This hilarious heavyweight film should be interesting to say the least.

This is the End: Red Band Trailer.

The World’s End:

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6: World War Z. Brad Pitt, Zombies, and based off of Max Brooks highly addicting novel, need I say more?

5: Iron Man 3. The Third entry into the Iron Man trilogy. It features an army of iron men and Ben Kingsley as a villain. Your argument is invalid.

4: Pacific Rim. Directed by Guillermo Del Toro and starring Idris Elba. This monster vs man picture features the use of gigantic robots controlled by humans battling humongous aliens, I’m sold.

3: Man of Steel. Produced by Christopher Nolan and starring Michael Shannon as General Zod. Man of Steel is the highly anticipated reboot of the Superman franchise.

2: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. The follow up to An Unexpected Journey. Peter Jackson’s The Desolation of Smaug should be a much improved film and appease those disappointed by the first.

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1: Star Trek Into Darkness. I have nothing to say, I am beyond words with anticipation. Just enjoy the trailer.