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16 August 2013

The Conjuring (Review): "Roller Coaster Fright"

Last August 12, I was lucky enough to catch the advanced screening of "The Conjuring"

“The Conjuring” is probably one of the better horror films this year.  It is not groundbreaking but it satisfactorily employs the usual horror devices and clich├ęs but it also offers something new.  It is part “The Exorcist,” and part “American Horror Story.”  Nevertheless, the film manages to make you scream, but for people whose horror threshold level is high, this film might not deliver the fright. “The Conjuring” is best seen in a dark cinema along with countless horror aficionados begging to be petrified.  I recommend watching this with your friends, the more the merrier. Do not forget to invite the loudest screamer.

Like most horror stories, “The Conjuring” simulates a nerve-racking but enjoyable roller coaster ride.  Screaming along many people is part of the thrill.  After all, horror movies are sometimes regarded as rehearsals for death and mass destruction, and in some cases, the frightening entity of the current period reflects the contemporary fear of the people.  That is why zombies are in.  People everywhere are terrified of a virus that would annihilate us all.

Lili Taylor
Director James Wan knows how to time his frightful scenes.  Just when you thought something scary will pop up, nothing comes; and when you least expect it, something terrifying materializes.  Certainly, a horror film is only as good as its lead cast. The outstanding ensemble of “The Exorcist” lead by Linda Blair and Ellen Burnstyn made the film a classic; and both Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins fueled the terror in “The Silence of the Lambs.”  In “The Conjuring," the underrated Lili Taylor helped heightened the horror with her usual superb performance. 

I do not easily get scared for personal reason.  Still, I did enjoy watching this surprising “fright film.” Perhaps the best compliment that I can give is that this film is certainly worth your money.  However, if you really want to see something revoltingly stomach turning, watch the news and witness the whole Napoles fiasco. Now that alone will make any atheist believe in the devil.  

and Why They May be Harmful to Faith

Horror films that delve on the myth or truth about exorcism and the devil may also be considered as affirmations of the power of the Christian faith or shallow dramatization of God's nature.  Some of the best exorcism movies always feature a non-believer or an ex-believer who has lost faith in God.  The non-believer is brought back to faith by the devil who usually possesses an innocent victim.  Devil possession in films, and perhaps in real life, is a means rather than the end goal.  The devil possesses an individual in order to lure a non-believer deeper into his abyss or to tempt the non-believer to believe in God again.  In some cases, the devil tests the faith of the believer in God.  Almost always, in most movies about exorcism, the non-believer returns to God’s grace, dead or alive.  The act of exorcism is a cleansing of doubt.  Devil possession after all makes the concept of evil real. The devil or evil entities are not abstract or a philosophical concept anymore.  The devil becomes personal and so the individual is confronted to accept God on a personal level as well.

Devil possession is a common theme in Christian literary and film canon.  It dates back during Jesus’ time. The devil is an astute and flamboyant villain. He is powerful but he will never win: a necessary ingredient in classical narrative.  However, nowadays, horror films are also slowly falling prey to commercialism and the myths and iconic images of god and demons have become mere characters and devices in film to lure the moviegoers.   These days, it is rare to find exorcism films that truly delve deeper below the surface of God and Lucifer.  Exorcism films do not usually explore the complex relation of the believer with God.  The story is artificial and does not usually present a deeper insight on the true nature and beauty of faith.  In fact, one may even say that exorcism movies are the adult versions of fairy tales.  In fairy tales, all that matters is the princess defeated the wicked stepmother but it does not ask the right questions. Was the mother really wicked or was she really a witch?  Was the princess really better off married with Prince Charming? Similarly, in exorcism movies, we are just happy that the devil is defeated, but we never really ask if God will truly allow innocent victims to suffer just to remind us that He exists. Is God really that vain or we just have a narrow idea of who God really is. 

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