the conjuring berlatsky 650

RIGHT on schedule, in amongst the gaudy CGI Pixar flumps parading on our cinema screens and, as tradition dictates, a film with Sandra Bullock; there’s something darker, with an added glut of hype, haunting a theatre near you.

The Conjuring is set to be the horror movie of the summer. The American Box Office has already surrendered, leaving the two-hour shiny effects capsule Pacific Rim and ‘Johnny Depp and the Cowboy Pirates’ aka The Lone Ranger defeated.

Now more than ever it seems we crave the special effects, the explicit and the vomit-inducing. For too long we’ve been content piling popcorn into our gullets while watching meat-grinding Gore-Fest; The Entrails 7 or other such torturous spew. James Wan, creator of Saw (the first one, mind), has reverted back to the days when we relied on our own twisted imaginations to instil fear. And not a moment too soon, I say.

The Warrens, a real-life husband and wife ghost hunting duo, are called to deal with the ghostly activities at a family home. Stripped-back scares, no gore and limited digital effects bring the audience back to humble horror of a simpler time.

I look back on the Janet Leigh’s hand sliding down the white bathroom tiles and Heather’s desperate run through the forest with fondness. We don’t need to see everything to be enthralled and petrified, or have are imaginations deserted us and all that remains is a thirst for blood and overpriced pick n mix?

Take the wonderfully terrifying Woman in Black theatre production, its simple use of lighting and sound is notoriously spine-melting. Call me a traditionalist, but a camera confident ghost who enjoys standing behind a mutton-chopped Harry Potter and screaming onto windows with her gummy mouth-hole was repetitive and unnecessary.

Of course, there’s a natural progression in movie-making and the trends that lure us into the cinema are fleeting and money-driven. I’m not squeamish and I applaud good SFX (especially in zombie films) but I’m happy to see the ‘torture porn’ fad take a break. Major elements of film making were forced to take a back seat and the prop-guy and makeup department seemed to carry the film. There’s nothing scarier and more satisfying than the devastating, intense subtleties.

The worrying thing is it’s refreshing to see something we’ve already seen countless times before. The Conjuring is set in the 1970s; there are some obvious similarities to Rosemary’s Baby, Carrie and such. But running out of ideas? That’s a scarier concept.

So where do we go from here? The industry’s clearly come a long way since hooked-nosed, hunchbacks creeping up staircases and little girls with projectile problems, but keeping us horror-obsessed cretins amused is a hard task, we don’t scare so easy. We’ve thrown our tiny, red-eyed, tricycle-riding puppet out the pram and we’re hungry for a new fright.

Will The Conjuring spark a second-coming? I doubt it, and I’m a little scared of what comes next.

This was written as an example opinion piece for the position of IdeasTap arts columnist.


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