Fantasia kicked off last week with their opening screening of James Wan's newest horror flick, The Conjuring.
Paranormal investigators Ed & Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson & Vera Farmiga) take on their toughest case yet when they agree to help a mother (Lily Taylor) discover what has been tormenting her family in their Rhode Island home.
This was a highly enjoyable haunted house thrill ride. A film like this is only as strong as its scare set pieces and The Conjuring has several great ones. While it is true a few seem cribbed from other works, most notably Sam Raimi's Drag Me To Hell and the eighties television show Friday the 13th, there are many others that are brimming with ingenuity.
|Annabelle, one of The Conjuring's many haunts.|
I would say that Wan has even bettered Insidious. I was a big fan of his 2010 scare-fest and while I didn't find its eventual foray into the netherworld detrimental to the picture, it was a little over complicated. Here, Wan kept things simple and grounded throughout, which made for a more effective piece. The CG was also kept to a minimum, which, as you know, I always appreciate.
I can really see Wan's evolution as a filmmaker here. He has overcome his earlier third-act problem, and has moved on from the easy gore thrills of Saw. Technically, his craftsmanship has increased tenfold, as well. I'd seen glimpses of it in his earlier films like Death Sentence and Insidious, but here it is on full display. I marvelled at some of the camerawork in The Conjuring.
However, just as instrumental as Wan's direction is the wonderful cast. Wilson & Farmiga – likely two of the best character actors working today – are delightful together and Lily Taylor is solid as always as the troubled mother of five children. Speaking of which, I always find it impressive when horror filmmakers can get a good performance out of one child, let alone five. You would think that with a large family like that, things would start to get muddled, but each sibling has their own moment and it all works seamlessly. Collectively, this ensemble gave the film a dramatic weight that is so often absent from modern genre efforts.
|Patrick Wilson & Vera Farmiga as The Warrens in The Conjuring.|
The Conjuring is definitely the best horror film I've seen so far this year and Wan has cemented himself as one of the top tier genre filmmakers working today. I guess that's what makes this triumph bittersweet, as just when he is at the top of his game, Hollywood recruits him to helm the next Fast & the Furious flick. I know we still have Insidious 2 to look forward to, but I can't imagine there is much left in that well for it to be anywhere near as good as this.