Archive for Insidious

“She Made Me Do It!!” A Review Of “The Conjuring” (2013)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 5, 2014 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

Continuing the reviews of some of the most talked about horror movies of 2013, let’s take a look at James Wan’s  supernatural thriller, The Conjuring.

**WARNING: May Contain Minor Spoilers**

Admittedly, I put off watching this film for a while, mainly due to the fact that it didn’t appear to offer anything new to the sub-genre. It had predictable, mainstream horror fare written all over it! Insidious (2011) failed to impress and turned what could have been a decent paranormal flick into something that completely missed the mark. Especially during it’s third act, with its contrived plot-line and cartoonish looking ghouls, destroying any potential it may have had. After a number of viewings, Insidious does not hold up very well. In this case, undoubtedly there’s unfair judgement in place on my part. Stylistically The Conjuring shares similar aesthetics with Insidious from the music and loud jump scares to the use of flashback scenes. It basically delivers itself in the same conventional formula. It even stars Patrick Wilson who played Josh Lambert both Insidious movies. James Wan himself recently admitted that he was done with making horror movies for the time being due to feeling typecast as a particular genre filmmaker. He puts this down to Hollywood studios riding off the back something successful and encouraging it to be repeated over and over. Cinema is ultimately a money-making business that needs to create products that audiences will want to see; however Wan wants to turn his hand at something different and is currently set to direct Fast & Furious 7 (2015) a far cry from what is about to be discussed.

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The Conjuring both steers away from convention at times but also remains with it. Arguably you will have seen this type of concept many times before. The film’s opening tells the tale of a supposed possessed porcelain doll, a trademark of Wan’s (See Saw (2004) and Dead Silence (2007), however its not the main focus, which surprises the audience to a degree. This sub-plot introduces paranormal investigators Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) and Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson) to the audience to provide a sense of the kind of cases they’re involved in. During the credit sequence we are informed of the film’s main story which is marketed as “Based on True Events”. Yes, the Warren’s were in fact real people, however the majority of haunting-themed films are allegedly inspired by real occurrences that may or may not have happened. See The Amytiville Horror (1979, 2005) or The Haunting in Connecticut (2009).  Apparently the plot we’re about to witness is one of the most horrific cases that ever materialized, for me however a lot of suspension of disbelief is in place.

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The real life Lorraine Warren and Andrea Perron worked closely with the film’s screenwriters and claim that the events unfolded on screen are an accurate depiction of what actually took place. We are sent back in time to 1971 where the Perron family are then introduced, consisting of mother Carolyn (Lili Taylor), father Roger (Ron Livingston) and their five young daughters. Oh and they have a dog! This typical American family are moving into a creepy looking old farmhouse, filled with plenty of frights around every corner! The 70’s setting is often featured in films of this vein, must have been a lot of creepy houses and a lot of spiritual activity back then if this is what the movies lead us to believe! To its credit though, the setting does give provide an unsettling tone especially emphasized by the design of the house itself.

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Despite being predictable in many ways, The Conjuring does present several hide behind the cushion moments. The music rises, bangs on the walls are heard and you know its coming yet you still want to turn away! Wan has achieved his scares well this time round and limited the visual appearances of the demonic presence in comparison to the Darth-Maul inspired creation from his previous supernatural outing! It’s always far more effective when its what you can’t see that creates a sense of fear. Some impressive tracking shots are used to heighten the feeling of anxiety resulting in some shudder-worthy moments. Without giving too much away, the revelation of the demonic possession relating to witchcraft does bring in that extra layer of pure evil and let’s the audience know that anything is possible. It goes in depth with its mythology surrounding demonic activity that proves engaging.

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The Conjuring is well-acted with strong, emotional performances from Wilson, Vera Farmiga and Lili Taylor in particular.  The child actors within the film play their roles convincingly, Joey King as Christine and Sterling Jerins as the Warren’s daughter Judy do well at giving out the impression of dread in a compelling manner. The two narratives in place of the family’s possession and the Warren’s backstory weave together well before merging as one. The film builds up nicely and is perfectly paced incorporating some genuine moments of atmospheric tension that run throughout. It’s safe to say I was pleasantly surprised with The Conjuring. It was one that I didn’t expect to like however its the ideal film to watch with a group of friends if you want a good scare. Annabelle the doll who is arguably the face of the movie, used to cleverly market it is becoming a little icon in her own right through appearing in creepy doll lists by horror enthusiasts. Personally, older films such as The Innocents are far more chilling, but The Conjuring takes its expected formula and does a pretty good job with it.

Hayley Alice Roberts.

My Top 10 Horror Movies of 2011

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 27, 2011 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

With 2011 on its way out, here’s a look back on why it was the year for the horror film! 2011 saw a wide range of horror from all over the world which provided plenty of thrills, chills, suspense and all out gore. This countdown looks at the films that for me achieved all those aspects consisting of mainstream, foreign and independent titles.

10. “The Skin I Live In” (Original Title: “La piel que habito”)

  • Directed By Pedro Almodovar 
  • UK Release Date: 26th August 2011

 A unique piece of filmmaking, “The Skin I Live In” delves into the bizarre in a “Frankenstein”-type story with a dark and disturbing twist. It definitely places the audience into the uneasy as well as fills us with intriuge to quite literally get under the skin of surgeon Robert Ledgard (Antonio Banderas) and the mysterious woman he keeps in isolation.  The cinematography and composition are well-crafted, adding to the surreal, dream-like state that the film’s tone presents us with. The plot serves as a Hitchcock-inspired psychological thriller. Advisable to go into the film completely blind and unknowing as complete shock and disbelief is guaranteed.

 

 

 

 

9. “Scream 4”

  • Directed by Wes Craven
  • UK Release Date: 15th April 2011

 The slasher revival that all genre fans had been waiting for and it certainly did not disappoint! Genius writer/director team Kevin Williamson and Wes Craven returned on top form to deliver a clever critique on the state of modern Hollywood horror as well as providing suspense, gore  and plenty of surprises along the way. Legendary teen-killer Ghostface (voiced by Roger Jackson)  was more vicious than ever threatening protagonist Sidney (Neve Campbell) with ” I’m gonna slit your eyelids in half so you don’t blink when I stab you in the face” resulting in a spine-chilling effect. Old faces made a welcome return with feisty reporter Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox)  and the bumbling underdog Dewey Riley (David Arquette) now the police sheriff. Accompanying them was a trendy new cast of  talented young actors consisting of fan favourite Hayden Panettiere (playing Kirby) and Emma Roberts (playing Jill) as Woodsboro’s next generation. An eagerly anticipated addition to the popular 90’s franchise.

 

8. “Fright Night”

  • Directed by Craig Gillespie
  • UK Release Date: 2nd September 2011

 A fangtastic remake that provides the audience with new blood rather than being a dated replica of the original.  “Fright Night” is the anti-“Twilight” reminding us of the days of real vampires e.g. Dracula as it focuses on bloodthirst rather than bloodlust. The original 1985 film is brought into a modern context with vampire slayer Peter Vincent (David Tennant) portrayed as a flawed, Russell Brand-esque anti-hero.  Jerry the Vampire (Colin Farrell) is both seductive and scary and proves difficult not to relish in his screen presence. More funny than frightening this update gives remakes a refresh as well as an entertaining comment on recent, tired vampire lore.

 

 

 

 

7. “Panic Button”

  • Directed by Chris Crow
  • FrightFest World Premiere: 27th August 2011

 The scariest psychological thriller of the year, “Panic Button” highlights our unhealthy obsession with social networking and the dangers we remain ignorant to. Welsh director Chris Crow creates a heat-stopping thrill ride from beginning to end as four unsuspecting internet competition winners board a plane to New York. The setting is claustrophobic with the notion of no escape and only the survival of the fittest can prevail. There are no monsters or ghouls to be thwarted, it cautions us to take a long, hard look at ourselves of everything we do and watch online leaving a thought-provoking sensation. The most intense and terrifying film of the subject-matter.

 

 

 

 

6. “The Woman” 

  • Directed by Lucky McGee
  • UK Release Date: 30th September 2011

Welcome to the dark side of Suburbia! While not an original concept “The Woman” is a stylish and unique piece of the horror genre that makes for a very uncomfortable watch. The plot focuses on an “upstanding” citizen,husband and father who secretly captures a feral woman and plans to “civilise” her through is own twisted methods and ideals, if he’s not careful he may lose a finger! With respect the film avoids relying on the classic jump-scares in order to convey the shock factor. A twisted blend of dark humour and all out gruseomness makes it a must-see for any horror fan. The twist is unforgettable and definitely worth the wait. Its controversial, its brutal, its bloody disgusting but all in a good way! Not for the faint-hearted.

 

 

 

 

5. “Insidious”

  • Directed by James Wan
  • UK Release Date 29th April 2011

The creepiest mainstream horror/supernatural film of the year! “Insidious” ramps up the scare factor with spooky imagery that remains difficult to shrug out of the mind. The build-up is intense and creative once the unexpected explanation for the haunting is revealed. A sense of empathy is in place throughout as the characters are written well and could easily depict anyone in real life. Rose Byrne particularly gives an impressive performance as the gaunt, distressed mother Renai. The tone is gritty creating a realistic feel to the setting which is also emphasised with the use of grey-scale. Chilling, atmospheric, with plenty of menacing ghouls “Insidious” is an exception to mainstream horror taking traditional ghost story elements as well as providing something new to the genre.

 

 

 

4. “Some Guy Who Kills People”

  • Directed By Jack Perez
  • Celluloid Screams UK Premiere: 22nd October 2011

“Some Guy Who Kills People” even though it displays an explicit title it ignites intrigue in the viewer. Surprisingly, despite fitting into the horror genre it is actually one of the most heart-warming films of the year which demonstrates the adaptability and versatility of horror as a whole. Protagonist Ken Boyd (played by Kevin Corrigan) is an identifiable character as the audience enters a rollercoaster ride of emotions with him, from coming to terms with harrowing past events to connecting with the daughter he never knew. A surreal, quirky, semi-gory, stylistic film very much in the vein of John Landis along with Ryan Levin’s cleverly-crafted dialogue.

 

 

3. “We Need to Talk about Kevin”

  • Directed by Lynne Ramsay
  • UK Release Date: 21st October 2011

 The film adaptation of Lionel Shriver’s novel “We Need To Talk About Kevin” while not an obvious horror contender is a startling  tale of how love can go dead wrong and the consequences that follow. Watching “Kevin” feels voyeuristic however you can’t take your eyes off the screen. The audience is placed in a position of conflict with the character of Eva (Tilda Swinton) as she fails to form a strong bond with her only son Kevin (Ezra Miller). The film has been praised highly by many critics and with good reason, Tilda Swinton delivers an unforgettable and powerful performance making the viewer both love and hate her at the same time for creating this monster capable of destroying several lives. “Kevin” is edited out of sequence which adds to the dreaded tone as we are aware of what’s to come but its the dark journey embarked on leading to the tragic event that results in an unsettling effect. The mise-en-scene uses clever symbolism to convey the narrative including tomato soup representing blood. Compelling, unnerving, chilling and exceptional; “Kevin” really questions where does blame really lie?

 

 

2. “Harold’s Going Stiff”

  • Directed by Keith Wright
  • Celluloid Screams UK Premiere 23rd October 2011

A very Sheffield-based film that conveys the great humour of the area. “Harold’s Going Stiff” has a fitting blend of black comedy and a horror as a backdrop for the narrative’s metaphor. Its one of the most unique films of the year as it depicts a sense of realism demonstrated through its strong social message of the elderly in Britain and their care-workers while also acting as an unconventional “zombie” film. The characters are written as if they were people we could relate to in real life, Stan Rowe (Harold) and Sarah Spencer (Penny) have believable on screen chemistry that really carries the film. Its a surreal portrayal of society, told in a documentary-style fashion as well as being a tale of finding friendship in the most unexpected places.  Keith Wright needs to be congratulated on creating such a well-crafted, touching horror film that has something for everyone.

 

 

 

1. “Inbred”

  • Directed by Alex Chandon
  • UK Release Date: TBA

“They came in peace and left in pieces” quite literally! “Inbred” is most definitely the most inventive horror film of the year. Four young offenders and two of their care-workers embark on a character building weekend in a remote location, the fictional Yorkshire-based village of Mortlake. Soon they come across the bizarre and twisted traditions of the locals and get caught up in a bloodbath of terror and a heart-stopping fight for survival. Think “An American Werewolf in London” meets “The Hills Have Eyes” meets “The Wicker Man” which only partly sums it up! “Inbred” incorporates many elements which is what makes it so bloody brilliant! Its a comment on modern British society, it has the essence of the Grand-Guignol, the characters are larger than life and downright entertaining, it also isn’t afraid to push the boundaries in terms of blood, guts, goats and gore, satisfying fans of the genre everywhere! Its the performances that stick out the most, the victims create a sense of empathy with the audience which is a rarity in horror, while the “Inbreds” are hilarious to watch but brutal! Prepared to be shocked and entertained at the same time. “Inbred”  has got everything a horror film should have!

 

Hayley Alice Roberts.