"The Conjuring" is a throwback kind of film, and not just because it's set in 1971.
This horror film is a good old-fashioned ghost story, with a solid cast and some intriguing elements in play that make it a cut above most films in its genre.
Based on a true story, "The Conjuring" is about a married couple named Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) who specialize in paranormal investigations.
They are approached by Carolyn (Lili Taylor), a mother of five girls who has just moved into a farmhouse with strange occurrences. They agree to help the family and soon discover that the house is haunted by a dark presence intent on destroying anyone who steps inside.
"The Conjuring" is directed by James Wan, who directed the original "Saw." Wan has a good sense of pacing here, building some pretty tense moments with a few gotcha payoffs. It's all done in a way that is significantly less gory than "Saw" and significantly more effective.
The cast is very good and believable as well.
But perhaps what gives "The Conjuring" its pulse is the decision to tell the story from the point of view of the investigators - giving the film a much-needed human layer. As the craziness in the house intensifies, the audience's connection to the characters remains strong, largely because the film allows enough time to develop a bond between the audience and the characters.
It's an element you don't see much in the horror genre, but it raises "The Conjuring" to a different level.
Also in theaters
If you are looking for something a little lighter, one of this week's other high-profile releases, "Red 2" (B-), might be a good alternative. The sequel to the 2010 hit is a bit of mindless fluff that works on its own simple level.
"Red 2" begins with former CIA agent Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) trying to enjoy retirement with his girlfriend Sarah (Mary Louise Parker).
The retirement plan is put to the test when friend and former colleague Marvin (John Malkovich) shows up, warning Frank he is being targeted by former enemies who believe he has information on a missing portable nuclear device.
The news forces Frank back into action, who tries to find the device before it falls into the wrong hands.
Your tolerance for "Red 2" can be answered with one simple test. If you liked the first one, then you will like this film as well - it's pretty much the same film.
Sure it's a bit of a rehash, but the cast makes it all very easy to take.
It's not often you get to see Malkovich and Helen Mirren slumming in a B-level action film, but to their credit, they attack this silliness in the same manner they attack their more serious fare. It's a lot of fun to watch them having so much fun.
Willis is basically playing the same character he has for the last 25 years, but he appears to be having a good time, too. "Red 2" also gives Parker a chance to show she has some pretty good comedic chops.
"Red 2" adds some new faces as well - most notably Anthony Hopkins as an absent-minded scientist, Catherine Zeta-Jones as a Russian spy and Frank's former love interest, and Lee Byung-hun as an assassin hired to take out Frank. Of those three, Byung-hun makes the best impression, able to keep up with the gunfire and comedic quips. "Red 2" isn't too memorable, but it is mildly entertaining - with just enough to satisfy action fans.
"Red 2" is rated PG-13 for pervasive action and violence, including frenetic gunplay, and for some language and drug material. It is now playing at the Regal Bowling Green Stadium 12 and Highland Cinemas in Glasgow.
-- To get sportswriter/movie reviewer Micheal Compton's thoughts on all things movies, visit his blog at mcompton.wordpress.com or his Twitter page at twitter.com/mcompton428. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Credit: By MICHEAL COMPTON The Daily News email@example.com /783-3247
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