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Tyler

The Conjuring

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Many good thoughts, Nathaniel.

One dissenting comment:

He errs in allowing the ghosts to be articulate, violating one of M.R. James's rules of thumb.

 

I don't know the rule in question, but I think Wan has found an exception, and so it is not an error. The ghosts are articulate, but largely in a mimetic mode that converges with their monkey-see monkey-do hand-clapping and piano playing. To me, that's friggin creepy.

Edited by SDG

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Many good thoughts, Nathaniel.

One dissenting comment:

He errs in allowing the ghosts to be articulate, violating one of M.R. James's rules of thumb.

I don't know the rule in question, but I think Wan has found an exception, and so it is not an error. The ghosts are articulate, but largely in a mimetic mode that converges with their monkey-see monkey-do hand-clapping and piano playing. To me, that's friggin creepy.

Agreed.

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There's one particular moment--you might say the signature moment of the original trailer--involving a pair of clapping hands suddenly appearing out out of the darkness right behind Lili Taylor's left ear. For me, this exquisitely timed effect is nearly ruined by the inclusion of a throwaway line ("Wanna play with me?" or something equally ridiculous) that seemed to have been added as an afterthought. But that's just me. The best shock of the film, personally speaking, comes just a few seconds sooner than you'd expect, and involves a hideous figure crouching on top of a wardrobe.

 

SDG, you're right about the essential copycat nature of the spirits, and their limited vocabulary indicates that they are more like ghostly recordings doomed to repeat themselves over and over again, which would place them more firmly in Nigel Kneale territory. Then again, I'm sure that James, with his antiquarian obsessions, would have been pleased with the roomful of haunted objects--a veritable museum of the damned.

Edited by Nathaniel

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The Christian stuff is flat in the ways you mention, but I also think it works with the narrative form (re: they are "missionaries" in an investigative sense in that one of their primary means of dissipating the darkness is driving away unbelief, and this all works with the way in which the film becomes about whether light or darkness has more power of influence)--something I tried to highlight in my review for CT. None of that's there very sharply on the surface, but it's there in the narrative situation very nicely for me.

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This is a good example of what a competent director with flair can do with mediocre material. The first 45 minutes or so are a gripping procession of cliches, all of them shopworn but still durable. Wan demonstrates a fine eye for widescreen compositions and good understanding of how deep focus can enhance suspense. The '70s style title crawl and zoom lenses are charming reminders of a vanished age--hardly a Golden Age, but still.

I'm nodding along with all of this.

Wan's certainly come a long way since his early features. He's clearly quite skilled (even the wonky, largely limp INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2 has very witty, inspired moments), though what keeps his horror films from greatness is their failure to create a compelling subtext.

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So you guys aren't detecting a still-there-and-interesting subtext via his stylistic/formal flairs? (I'm talking about THE CONJURING).

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So you guys aren't detecting a still-there-and-interesting subtext via his stylistic/formal flairs? (I'm talking about THE CONJURING).

A few interesting if familiar ideas: the mutability of the "real" world by dint of supernatural agency, the territoriality of ghosts/demons, the home as a site of spiritual warfare, paranormal investigators as cleaners, the aforementioned fear of nasty old women, women as spiritually superior beings, etc.

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There are certain ideas inherent to the genre machinery that Wan/Whannell are playing with in THE CONJURING, and obviously certain images and ideas that Wan/Whannell fetishize (such as creepy old ladies, something that appears with a twist in INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2). That said, I'm not sure that Wan/Whannell handle those ideas with conviction.

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Putting this here because the lawsuit is for the whole series. 

Apparently the Warrens had previous contract with the author of The Demonologist that were contingent on them not giving permission for anyone else to use their stories. This author who had the contract with the Warrens is also very likely the author whose book influenced Wan to make the Conjuring movies in the first place. Oh boy.

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