The Conjuring

2013review_trailers

What were the best trailers of the year trying to sell? Movies and moods and ideas and awards and stars and sexiness and just a lot of great music. And maybe, just maybe, something more (read: more movie tickets). Not every great trailer advertises a great film, but sometimes even the most lackluster productions can gift movie fans with two minutes of cinematic glory (all the better if said trailer can include Kanye West screaming or Nicole Kidman redefining “cold” or even the glories of street dancing) worth lauding all on their own. This year saw a vast batch of standout trailers, and while our listing of best trailers of the year is nothing if not varied, all of the videos contained within share one key element – they effectively conveyed tone and feeling without revealing too much about plot and characters. As mini mood pieces, these thirteen trailers nailed it, as bits of marketing, they made us want to buy and buy big time.  What were the best trailers of the year trying to sell? Oh, it doesn’t matter – we were ready to buy.

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2013review_horror

Boo. Now turn off the lights, pull your feet in under the covers, and keep reading for a look at our choices for the Best Horror Movies of 2013.

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discs abominable dr phibes

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. The Vincent Price Collection Six of Vincent Price‘s horror pictures for AIP are collected here in HD including The Fall of the House of Usher, The Pit & the Pendulum, The Haunted Palace, The Masque of the Red Death, Witchfinder General, and The Abominable Dr. Phibes. Scream Factory hits another one out of the park with this fantastically produced and packaged collection of films featuring Price in all his glory. All but the final film bear some connection to the works of Edgar Allan Poe, a couple of them being very tenuous connections at best, and three were directed by Roger Corman. The movies run the gamut from good (Palace) to great (Masque) to WTF (Phibes), and they all look better than they ever have thanks to new HD restorations and a bevy of extras. Price was always an interesting and underrated actor, and this set offers a glimpse at a fun and fascinating variety of performances. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Introductions, commentaries, interviews, trailers, featurettes]

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SONY DSC

James Wan is one of the most adaptive directorial personalities in modern genre filmmaking, but his career didn’t always seem like it would turn out this way. Wan’s Saw was an indie mega-hit, spawning the most extensive horror franchise of the 21st century thus far. But Wan quickly distanced himself from the films, attempting to establish himself as a genre auteur of diverse skill sets. With his underwhelming one-two punch of Dead Silence and Death Sentence in 2007, he failed to develop a reputation away from the franchise that found continued success beyond him. But with Insidious and The Conjuring (this summer’s sleeper hit and one of the few pieces of Hollywood entertainment that actually entertained in the past few months), Wan found himself the modern master of the supernatural haunted house thriller, a horror sensibility miles away from the “torture porn” craze Wan’s franchise inception became associated with. This weekend sees the successful director helming his first sequel, Insidious Chapter 2, and Wan has signed on to make the next entry in the recently revived Fast/Furious franchise. Point being, Wan has proven himself against the limitations of the subgenre constraints he helped create, showing that he is a filmmaker interested in appealing to mass audiences through a variety of popular genres. So here’s some free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from the director who forces us to ask how creepy dolls will fit into a movie about race cars and muscle-y bald men.

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IMG_6285.dng

I love all kinds of movies. Especially the really good ones. But when given the choice between watching a movie in a theater packed with strangers or in my living room where there’s a maximum occupancy of five, I will almost certainly choose the latter now. Obviously the overwhelming majority of new releases don’t offer that option so I find myself in the theater a couple times per week both for work and for pleasure, and to be clear, I’m very much a fan of watching movies come to life on the big screen. My problem is specifically with the audience. Between the talking, all the 911 calls and the loud smacking noises apparently required when masticating lobby chum, the theater experience has dipped in quality quite a bit in recent years. No big revelation there. Every week seems to bring a new debate about whether or not theaters should allow tweeting, juggling, or breast feeding during movies, but while I’ve gotten used to the distractions during most types of films there’s a sub-genre wholly dependent on atmosphere that’s suffering thanks to this new breed of sphincter-like filmgoer. Watching scary horror movies in theaters just isn’t scary anymore.

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THE CONJURING

When Warner Bros. put The Hangover into production, they gave Todd Phillips $35M and a ton of creative freedom (they only seemed to intervene when the director wanted to use real Tasers on his actors). The idea was that if he stayed under that budget, he could cast who he wanted (those guys?) and make the comedy he envisioned with limited studio interference. It was an admirable move that became even easier to praise when the movie destroyed box office records and launched a franchise with three new stars. The Conjuring is a different beast, but its connection to The Hangover (not simply that they have the same distributor) is an interesting one for the sole reason of timing. Released months apart from each other, the final Hangover installment scored another $112M domestic from a budget of $103M (from humble beginnings…), and in less time, James Wan‘s haunted house movie will overtake that domestic amount for $15M less than the cost of the original Hangover. There’s a big lesson here, and hopefully Hollywood is paying attention (but they probably aren’t).

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The Conjuring

The best horror films transcend simple scariness. They create an atmosphere filled with tension that puts a stranglehold on the audience. That reaches through the screen, grabs you and pulls you into the film. Movies like The Exorcist, Poltergeist and Halloween all do this in different ways. It’s a sort of ineffable quality, difficult to put into words, but often characterized by causing goosebumps. I’ve seen The Conjuring twice now, and I’ve gotten goosebumps both times. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga play real life husband and wife paranormal investigation team Ed and Lorraine Warren. The film opens with them going through a famous case of theirs involving a creepy doll, but we then meet the Perron family, Roger and Carolyn (Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor) and their 5 daughters as they move into a new home. Things are off about the new house and as the disturbances grow in intensity, Carolyn seeks out the Warrens. Ed is initially reluctant, but they agree to come to the Perron home to help.

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THE CONJURING

This week sees the opening of James Wan’s The Conjuring, the horror maestro’s latest scream-filled outing that has already picked up plenty of accolades, thanks to an early premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival. A riff on the classic haunted house trope, The Conjuring laces in plenty of that “based on a true story” stuff that’s so often tossed on horror film branding with very little basis in fact – which makes the film’s apparent basis in fact all the more interesting (and, fine, totally scary). The film centers on the haunting of the Perrone family (led by Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor), who find their lives terrifyingly upended after moving into a large, isolated farmhouse with a bloody history (pro tip: never move into a large, insolated farmhouse with a bloody history). All the classic hallmarks of a demonic haunting show themselves early – bad smells, bumps in the night, stopped clocks, bad dreams, incessant knocking, destroyed belongings, visions, and a creeping sense of dread that all seven Perrons can’t escape – so the arrival of noted demonlogists Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) comes as a tremendous relief. The arrival of the Warrens will also come as relief to fans of the couple’s work in the paranormal realm, as yup, the Warrens really did investigate the paranormal and the demonic and, indeed, The Conjuring is based on one of their actual cases. But while The Conjuring is the first feature film based on a […]

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mr smith and mccarthy

This week was shortened, business-wise, by the holiday honoring America’s birthday and independence, but that didn’t stop us. We’re not the lazy side of this nation. We’re the part that truly represents what the Founding Fathers wished for 237 years ago. We were the best we could be. And we gave you readers as much great original content as we might have had it been a full work week. It helped that this was the beginning of the month, so we have Jack’s usual preview of the weeks ahead in recommended releases, and it was also the close of the first half of the year, so we had a couple features looking at the past six months in movies. We’re so positive! We also saw the box office branding of a new movie star,  the return of a genre, the false return of another genre, the inauguration of a new column on movie truth and a look at recent music documentaries and a new fake reality series. And it’s all highlighted below for your recapping, catching up enjoyment. Start your weekend right after the jump.

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Pacific Rim

We’re now halfway done with the summer movie season, and thus far, it’s been a good one. This month is the most exciting of the bunch, as July usually is, but June was no slouch. Man of Steel wowed audiences while dividing critics, but best of all, World War Z became the surprise, if modest, hit of the summer. Not only that, director Marc Forster proved the negative buzz wrong with a clever and efficient action thriller. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for White House Down. Shame on me for not including it on last month’s list, because, according to plenty of trusted sources, it’s a boatload of fun. I still haven’t had the time to see it for myself, but it sounds like the type of self-aware, focused blockbuster Roland Emmerich‘s career has been building up to. Thankfully people turned out for This is the End, so Sony has that going for them. Let’s hope none of these must-see films of July meet the same box-office fate as the rocket launcher-wielding president:

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THE CONJURING

The Perron family has a problem. They have just moved into a large, spacious farm house set off a beautiful lake, but around 3:07 every morning, something goes very wrong. Clocks stop, bad smells travel around the rooms, and doors creak and bang shut for no reason. But it is during a game of “hide and clap” that an unknown cellar is revealed and the mysterious occurrences around the house get worse. After one of her daughters is terrorized, Carolyn (Lili Taylor) realizes her family needs help. She seeks out two well-known paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga), with the hope they can figure out what, if anything, may be haunting her family. The moment Lorraine enters the Perrons’ home it becomes clear this family is not experiencing rational bumps in the night. The panicked truth playing behind Lorraine’s eyes while she tries to keep her composure showcases Farmiga’s ability to create a layered and captivating performance while amplifying the terror.

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The Conjuring

The first trailer we saw for James Wan’s (Saw, Insidious) upcoming horror film, The Conjuring, didn’t really hit all the usual beats that horror trailers do. Instead it played much more like a short film, building to a big scare in the end. It was an effective tactic that really sold the movie as something that was going to scare the pants off you. So it’s pretty head-scratching as to why the approach was completely abandoned for this new ad for the film, which is just about as generic as a horror movie trailer can get, even while going completely over the top with what it gives away. It opens with some faux found footage that looks derivative of every bad horror movie that’s come out over the last five years, moves on to the same invisible-ghost-yanking-the-legs-of-sleeping-people trick that the Paranormal Activity movies have driven into the ground, checks the creepy kids box off of its list, and then goes on to show way more special effects craziness than probably even the feature itself should contain. The rule of that which you don’t see being scarier than that which you do see seems to be completely thrown out of the window here.

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conjuring-poster

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before, but here’s a poster for a brand-new horror film that promises us that its story has sprung from some true life tales. Crazy, right? Well, perhaps a little less crazy than we’re used to seeing on the big screen. James Wan‘s The Conjuring is actually based on a case file from Ed and Lorraine Warren, noted paranormal investigators and demonologists who were involved with some of the world’s most insane supernatural cases. Remember the Amityville Horror? Yup, it was the Warrens who helped investigate that one. The Conjuring stars Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as the Warrens, dispatched with investigating “a family terrorized by a dark presence in a secluded farmhouse. Forced to confront a powerful demonic entity, the Warrens find themselves caught in the most horrifying case of their lives.” Sounds fun. The Conjuring opens on July 19th. [Press Release]

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trailer the conjuring

Generally it takes a horror movie a chunk of time for it to start being scary. You have to establish a spooky atmosphere, a sense of dread, and then let the tension build to a breaking point before you really start turning the screws on the audience. The new trailer for Saw and Insidious director James Wan’s latest film, The Conjuring, however, proves that this isn’t always necessarily the case. Through the use of a couple of tried and true tricks, like establishing the protagonist’s vulnerability and forcing them to confront the unknown, this little horror movie ad is able to conjure up scares in a mere two-and-a-half minutes. It’s so effective that it practically works on its own as a short film. Check it out after the break:

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