Tag Archives: Patrick Wilson

A review of “The Conjuring” (2013)

I feel the same way about “The Conjuring” (2013) as I did about its prequel, “Annabelle” (2014) — it has all the earmarks of a bad movie, but it inexplicably succeeds anyway.

Seriously — this film has clunky exposition, cheesy dialogue and over-the-top plot developments (toward the end), not to mention a plot setup that’s in questionable taste.  (The movie suggests that the innocents condemned by the infamous 1692 Salem witch trials were indeed witches.  This feels a bit awkward to anyone who read Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” in high school.)  “The Conjuring” also plays out like a love letter to Ed and Lorraine Warren, the controversial paranormal investigators who are largely the subject of the film (played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga).  This last offense is forgivable, I suppose — the film was made with the Warrens’ blessing, and Lorraine Warren was even present as a “consultant” during its production.

Strangely, however, these flaws were barely noticeable to me when I watched it.  I had a good time.  “The Conjuring” just happens to be a decent fright flick that delivers on the scares.

I think James Wan’s skilled directing has a lot to do with that; the film works visually.  (I could name specific instances where it works especially well, but I want to avoid spoilers.)

The acting helped a lot too — Wilson and Farmiga are both damned good, as is Lili Taylor as the afflicted family’s mother.  (I’ve admired Taylor’s acting since her long ago 1998 guest appearance on “The X-Files,” and she was equally good as a bad guy in 1996’s “Ransom.”)  Ron Livingston was also quite good in the role of the father — if you have trouble placing his face, as I did, he also played Captain Nixon in HBO’s “Band of Brothers” (2001).  He seems to have a talent for playing the likable everyman — he’s great here as the somewhat feckless father, and functions well as a kind of viewer surrogate.  I should also mention the young Joey King as one of the family’s daughters — she played the role of a terrified child to perfection, and really raised the stakes emotionally.

Despite really enjoying most of the movie, some of my enthusiasm for “The Conjuring” flagged a bit toward the end.  The denouement here includes an exorcism, and those are almost always boring.  There are only so many ways that scenario can play out, and we’ve seen them all — and I shouldn’t even need to name that certain 1973 film that did it best.  Furthermore, we see our story’s demon do some pretty extraordinary things, even by demon standards.  It can apparently transport itself great distances (using an inanimate object as a kind of fax machine?), and can manipulate both the laws of physics and the area’s wildlife.  It was all a little too much for my willing suspension of disbelief.

Again, though — this was a good movie.  I’d give it an 8 out of 10, and I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a good scare.

 

“Bone Tomahawk” (2015) was superb. “Wyatt Earp” meets “Cannibal “Holocaust!”

Let’s get something out of the way first — “Bone Tomahawk” (2015) isn’t only a western.  It’s a genre-busting … “horror-western,” as other review sites have called it.  It pits four protagonists against a tribe of monstrous “cave dwellers” who have kidnapped two people from their tiny frontier town of “Bright Hope.”  And the results at the movie’s end are pretty damned horrifying.

This was superb — I’d give it a 9 out of 10.  “Bone Tomahawk” succeeds in being scary and enjoyable simply because it’s a quality film.  The script is outstanding, with nuanced, occasionally funny, and ultimately quite likable characters.  The four leads — Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox and Richard Jenkins — play the diverse quartet perfectly.  I could honestly watch another one or two movies about these guys, even without the horror-movie plot device that this flick employs — and that is coming from a guy that doesn’t like westerns.

The directing and cinematography are perfect.  And the end of the movie is nerve-shattering, smartly written and satisfying.  (Although there is one violent sequence that might make your heart stop.  Good lord.)

My only criticisms are very subjective.  For one, this movie sometimes felt slow.  The exciting horror-movie element that drives the plot is introduced early, but briefly.  It is then more than an hour before we arrive at it again, as we follow the four protagonists traveling to an uncharted valley just to reach the bad guys’ lair.

For another … this movie got just a little too dour during its lengthy second act (the trek to the valley where the climax takes place).  We see a few sad things, including the fates of innocent people and animals.  These punctuate what is literally a painful journey for one of our heroes waging a doomed battle against a horribly wounded leg.  Throughout its middle,  “Bone Tomahawk” isn’t so much of a “scary movie” as it is a slightly depressing movie.

Still, this was fantastic.  And if you see it and you really like it, as I did, then spread the word.  This flick hasn’t gotten the press it deserves.

Quick postscript: watch for David Arquette and none other than Sid Haig in surprise supporting roles!  And … supposedly Sean Young was in this movie, but I’ll be damned if I could spot her.

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A short review of “Insidious: Chapter 2” (2013).

It’s garish, it’s over the top, and it’s muddled — the kind of film that begs to be lampooned by “South Park” or “Family Guy.”  For much of its running length, it’s largely a retread of its predecessor.  Yet “Insidious: Chapter 2” (2013) still manages to be a good horror movie.  I’d give it an 8 out of 10.

It’s pretty damn scary.  Its saving graces, I think, are slick directing, a fast pace, and an effective horde of screaming, shrieking ghosties.  (White-faced Screaming Abusive Mama Ghost needs to CHILLAX.)  If a fright flick makes you jump a bunch of times (and during the daytime!), then you know it’s a decent fright flick, right?

Patrick Wilson shines.  But the talented Rose Byrne does little in this film beyond running around with a terrified expression on her face.  (It’s the screenwriter’s fault, not hers.)  You see that face she’s making in the movie poster?  That’s her performance throughout almost the whole movie.

Did anyone notice that “Specs” is Leigh Whannell, one of the initial two unfortunates in “SAW” (2004)?  (He’s also the screenwriter for both films.)

This was a good horror movie.  If you want a scare before bedtime, see it.

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