Scare Magician Wan Conjures Up another Haunted House Hit
Just before The Conjuring started, my wife said, “I dropped my wedding ring.” When the theater darkened, we still hadn’t found it. We decided to resume our search after the film. Unknowingly, we also challenged director James Wan (and writers Chad and Carey Hayes) to take our minds off our dilemma for a couple hours by cranking up the scares, like Insidious did.
In the early seventies, renowned demonologist/paranormal research duo Ed and Lorraine Warren confront their most frightening case. It starts when the financially strapped Perron couple and their daughters move into an old Rhode Island house. True to the haunted house formula, creepy things – Wan’s forté – start to happen. Carolyn Perron (Lili Taylor of The Haunting) reaches out to the Warrens.
Insidious lead Patrick Wilson plays Ed, a refreshingly levelheaded ghost hunter who wants to heed his clairvoyant wife’s desire to help the Warrens, but also prevent her from slipping into madness. By steering clear of the “creepy eccentric” and “lovable goofball” ghost hunter tropes, Wilson adds believability to the story.
The Warrens pepper the Perron house with Catholic icons and ghost hunting paraphernalia to expose the intruders. Then it’s more of the typical haunted house fare: the house’s violent history unravels, dark entities get angrier, and characters grow more desperate. As with Insidious, Wan takes the finale a bit far, but we can forgive him. Haunted house film fans aren’t looking for a life-changing cinematic experience. Rather, they’re looking for the same thing that a good roller coaster delivers: thrills and chills. The Conjuring doesn’t disappoint.
I frequent a local restaurant. The meal is enjoyable, but it’s that iced tea that keeps me coming back. A James Wan haunted house film is a lot like that. The characters aren’t highly memorable and the storyline sometimes flirts with the ridiculous, but they do their job. What keeps me coming back to these films – Wan’s iced tea, so to speak – are the “scary man in the closet” scenes, which The Conjuring pours on. The film uses traditional, but by no means ineffective, scare strategies – mirrors, doors, wardrobes, dolls, basements – ranging from slasher film pop-outs to more chilling techniques that lead the viewer to wonder, “What’s in/behind/under/through there?” One memorable scene ratchets up the tension with a blindfolded version of hide-and-go-seek that requires those hiding to occasionally clap to indicate their location (though the preview spoiled this one a bit for me). Another scare tactic shows one sister able to see a dark entity, while another sister (and the audience) cannot.
It turns out that Wan did divert my wife and me from our missing ring, and that says something about The Conjuring. Fortunately, we found the ring after the film. And we do look forward to the next wave of the “magic Wan”.—Douglas J. Ogurek