Starring: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Ron Livingston, and Lili Taylor
Written By: Chad Hayes and Carey W. Hayes
Directed By: James Wan
Synopsis: Shortly after moving into a new house, a family becomes terrorized by demonic forces. After learning of the world renowned paranormal investigating team of Ed and Lorraine Warren, the family asks for their help. Upon visiting the family in their home, the Warrens find themselves confronting a powerful demonic entity determined to continue its reign of horror.
Review By: Joshua Macmillan
When I think of modern horror, James Wan is one of the first directors that come to mind. I would say it is a fair assumption that Wan comes to mind for a lot of us genre fans. From his initial dive into horror with the Saw franchise, his Insidious films, to what I am writing about now with The Conjuring, James Wan has become a horror icon in the realm of creatives. Continue Reading
The recent box office success of The Conjuring has left me pondering the fate of horror. It would be hard to ignore the already surpassed nine-figure profit The Conjuring has reeled in amidst the summer blockbuster season. Their success is worth celebrating for horror fans everywhere; however, their high box office success has also left me a bit concerned for the future of horror films. Why? Well…we have to consider the nature and history of horror compared to the normalcy of Hollywood. Horror, in my eyes, has never been Hollywood…well, at least serious horror has never been Hollywood. The Conjuring’s success was surprising, typically horror, with its narrow target audience, has never really done well at the box office, but somehow this haunted “true life” tale made it through a season traditionally dominated by CGI and big name actors and actresses. The sheer awesomeness in the fact that this low-budget, high-quality horror story knocked the socks off the higher-budget movies is worth toasting, but as we drink in their success, the impact The Conjuring has had on the minds and pocketbooks in Hollywood Land has made me very very weary.
The Conjuring was produced on a mere $20 million budget and has, so far, raked in over $100 million. With a success story like this, its only a matter of time before other studios begin to take a swing at low-budget horror. This begs the question: will indie horror’s new found attention be good or bad for the future of horror? When these Hollywood studios begin to look at horror as a new cash cow, how will their motives effect the way horror is told? Will there be wave after wave of horrible horror flops in hopes of catching one money-making juggernaut? Or will it go the other avenue that so many other promising horror movies have gone? Consider World War Z, a mainstream high budget Hollywood “horror” movie if there ever was one. Though, I’d consider WWZ to be more action-horror than serious horror because of its use of CGI to create fantastic scenes instead of developing deeper character stories, WWZ was only moderately tolerable than first expected. However, lets be frank here, WWZ was more Schwarzenegger than Romero, more Micheal Bay than the original Max Brooks novel by the same name. This is what happens when horror goes mainstream: developers, producers, directors ditch original material for something with a little more glitter.
Perhaps my weariness boils down to a firm belief that the words lucrative and horror should never coexist. To be honest, the only reason I even look at box office ratings is to somehow gauge how receptory audiences are towards certain films that interest me. The Conjuring could have been a box office disaster and I would still tell you that it is without a doubt the best movie of the summer. Historically, horror movies have never done that well with mainstream audiences. It is only when the film are released on home video that these movies gain cult followings. Consider the Texas Chain Saw Massacre as proof of the importance of indie films remaining indie. This 1974 masterpiece was one of the best low-budget slasher films in the history of savage cinema. Today, critics and fans alike hail TCSM as one of the greatest films ever made, capturing the true essence of the shattered dreams of American life in the thralls of Vietnam. However, when Texas Chain Saw Massacre first released in theaters, Hollywood critics tore the movie to pieces (forgive the pun). The success of TCSM has much to owe to its cult following than its box office rating. Should I even mention the 2003 reboot? Lets just not go there, okay?
To say the least, I’m extremely satisfied with the success The Conjuring has been enjoying. Its nice getting to see a genre I’ve loved since my sister let me watch Night of the Living Dead when I was a kid do so well in theaters. But when I stop and think about what their success might end of doing to my beloved genre…well, I get a little nervous. However, I cannot argue with the historical success of mainstream movies such as Jaws or Poltergeist. Both of these movies were produced by popular Hollywood studios, coming out the other side with both a high box office rating and cult following. But these are few and far between. It seems, for the most part, originality and Hollywood are exclusive from each other. For now, we should all toast The Conjuring for pulling off the near impossible, whilst maintaining a cautionary eye on the west coast.
After talking with a co-worker regarding The Conjuring’s recent box office success, it left me pondering. How in the world did The Conjuring beat out the other contenders? The giant robot monster killers, the ghost cops (R.I.P.D.), zombie ants (yes-yes, they don’t run as fast in the actual movie), the has been comedians posing as suburban families, grumpy old men assassins, and the triple threat family friendly cartoons? Well, truthfully some of these above mentioned movies have been out for some time. Others, such as R.I.P.D., surprisingly fell face first opening weekend. While Pacific Rim, despite awesome reviews, has slowly eked out a decent profit of $68m (thus far), though one might expect more from such a monstrous film (forgive the pun). World War Z is still squeezing out green bills from latecomers with a grand total (again, thus far) of $186m domestically. I’m not even going to touch Grown Ups 2 or Red 2, it would take too much time and it would be too sad.
These above mentioned films must be measured against the budget in which they were made. Consider World War Z, again, and its $186m local. Sounds pretty nice, right? Well, it took about $190m to produce the film. Not really much profit there. And then The Conjuring comes in and blows every one of them out of the water with a $41m opening; working off a single million production budget! Booya baby! And just how did this micro-budget movie succeed? Well, for starters, in horror movies, traditional special effects trumps CGI any day of the week. As it should! And you know what? The Conjuring proves how old school can put a whopping on any of those would be summer blockbusters.
Consider zombies. When it comes to zombie movies, you should never use CGI, and if you think you have to, use sparingly. George A. Romero, in his original “dead” trilogy, you’ll find the best examples for how to make a good zombie film. Low budget, high quality, simply by relying on excellent story telling and special effects artists, such as Tom Savini. Now, i’m going to mention some of Romero’s more recent additions…even though I really don’t want to. I want to remember the Romero of the 70’s and 80’s. However, in the best example why you should use traditional, we find the best example why not to. Land of the Dead (2005) was, in all intents and purposes, an awesome movie and should be considered as part of the Romero lexicon. However, with the good comes the bad: in Land of the Dead, George decided to go with more CGI than traditional effects for all those memorable zombie kills we’ve grown to love.
George A. Romero is still, in my humble opinion, an awesome director and remains forever as the godfather of modern zombies. His “dead” flicks were legendary because of what boils down to two things: 1. the story (sure, zombie movies have zombies, but the story is about the people) and 2. traditional special effects. George placed guys like Savini up on pedestals, as they so rightly deserved. Horror movies are about the story, mainly; while special effects help emphasize said story and nothing more, though they can be just as unforgettable. After Land of the Dead and then later, the even sadder, Survival of the Dead released and even more CGI was added, many long time fans became depressed and dejected. I love Romero films, it was honestly sad to see the guy who made Dawn of the Dead make something as terrible as Survival of the Dead. Thankfully, old George bounced back with the direct to DVD amazingness, Diary of the Dead.
CGI has its place. Both science fiction and fantasy benefit from the advancement of special effects. But keep your stinking programs away from my horror! Insidious, Evil Dead, Innkeepers, Saw, Mama, The Conjuring, and so many others are proving how audiences feel regarding how much better traditional special effects are in horror movies. And consider, as my last will and testament regarding this issue of CGI verses old school: John Carpenters, The Thing (1982). One of the reasons why The Thing is still one of my all time favorite horror movies is because of how Carpenter used old school special effects. The movie was terrifying because of its story and concept. The effects simply added to the fear, instead of dominating the entire film. If you’ve seen the film you’ll know how gruesome some of the scenes are, but the real joy is watching these guys go crazy with paranoia. The prequel that released a few years back, telling the story of the lost Norwegian crew couldn’t muster the hipe of Carpenters now 31 year old classic. Why? Well, for me at least, the story was solid, the acting was good…but the damn CGI threw it all off. If they had gone old school, the prequel The Thing would have been…almost…closer to being as good as Carpenters, marginally.
Then again, this could all be simply the rant of someone completely transfixed on nostalgic memories from the 70’s and 80’s of horror. Many of you may have strong counter-opinions. And you know what? I want to hear them. Comment below if you’ve got something to say regarding the battle between CGI and traditional effects. Lets hear you’re voice!