Horror movies don’t generally get many nominations come Oscar season. Some people will immediately write them off as dumb, mindless, torture porn movies with no substance. Now granted, there are plenty of examples to back up that claim, but every so often there comes along a fundamentally great movie that just so happens to be in the horror genre. A movie that hits all on cylinders: well acted, interesting story, great score and beautifully shot. In honor of the 2016 Oscars airing on February 28th, I’m going to break down one movie from recent memory that was overlooked by the voters.
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The Conjuring, directed by James Wan, opened on July 19th, 2013, to great reviews from both fans and critics. The movie is about— now stop me if you’ve heard this one before— a family who moves into a new house with an evil history, so they hire people to try and figure out what’s going on and thus save themselves. The story is old and tired and that will be my first and last complaint about this film. First off, despite my negative comments about the overused story, it’s not about who did it first; it’s about who did it right. Second, this is based on a true story about Ed and Lorraine Warren, played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, who were investigators of the paranormal. So, yes, this story does sound familiar, but there’s a different level of truth this time around. The real Lorraine Warren was even on-set as a consultant for Wan.
The movie takes place in the early-mid 1970’s and it truly feels that way when watching it. I don’t just mean the sets and costumes, but everything from the score and title sequence gives off a 70’s vibe. Wan used a great combination of a creepy, screechy score, mixed with perfectly timed silence to really get your palms sweating. The acting is solidly led by Wilson who I’ve become a big fan of in the past couple of years. At a first view, none of the performances will blow you away, but every cast member does small, subtle things to make this movie feel real. In that regard, the acting is superb.
LOS ANGELES, CA – JULY 15: (L-R) Actors Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, director James Wan, actors Lili Taylor and Ron Livingston arrive at the premiere of Warner Bros. ‘The Conjuring’ at the Cinerama Dome on July 15, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
I think what I love most about this movie, and I don’t say this that often, is the cinematography. It’s so well shot and keeps with the 70’s feel, and also pulls off some impressive camera movements. One of the best shots of the movie happens early on when the family is moving in to the new house. The camera starts on a jib which is lowered down to reveal the house then the stedicam operator steps off the jib and follows the family through the house and out the back door. It’s a marvelous and impressive oner (a seamless and continuous shot with no edits). Not quite on the level of the famous oner from the first season of True Detective but still fantastic.
At the very least, I think The Conjuring could have been in talks for best original score and best cinematography. The score is chilling and lures you in and the cinematography is flawless all while pulling off some difficult shots. Is there another horror movie in recent memory that could have, or should have, been in the Oscar discussion? Drop a comment below and share your thoughts. And enjoy Oscar Sunday!