Conjurer (2008)

APRIL 24, 2010

GENRE: PSYCHOLOGICAL, SUPERNATURAL
SOURCE: CABLE (ON DEMAND)

You ever have one of those days in your home where you decide to do one minor thing and it turns into an all day, expensive project? I had one of those days today. Since acquiring a 2nd cable box a few weeks ago, it had just been sitting on my floor, and so I decided to finally make some room in the entertainment center and hook it up. Doing so, I realized that I didn’t have any more inputs in my ancient TV (on which S video is the most high-quality connection), so I spent the next two hours trying to MacGuyver a series of splitters and “if I connect the Playstation to the VCR and then go out from the VCR into the TV I can hook the cable up...” type ideas, only to finally say “Fuck it” and run to Best Buy to buy a new TV with a wealth of inputs, which added 2-3 more hours to the process. By the time everything was done, I had a giant mess on my floor (much more of an eyesore than a lone cable box) and was 90 minutes away from going out to a birthday party, which is why I watched Conjurer, as it was available On Demand and I could watch it in my room, on my brand new TV/cable box, while I wrapped up wires and such. Stupid BC.

Anyway the movie’s not that great. It's watchable, and well made on a technical level, but there are major flaws in the story and acting that kept it from ever being engaging or suspenseful for me. To explain why would be very spoiler-ish, unless you share my amazing sense of horror movie perception, that is. So if you're a spoiler-phobe, stop reading now! Just scroll to the bottom to see the pic of my awesome gamer corner!

See, it’s sort of a haunted house movie, except there are only two occupants (husband and wife), plus a dog. So you know the dog is a goner, and that nothing bad will happen to the couple until the end, if that. And it doesn’t share Paranormal Activity’s ability to gradually build on basic scares until all hell breaks loose, which is why that movie worked so well even without the possibility of any real harm coming to the couple until the final moments. But that’s not even the main problem. The real thing that hurts the movie is that the wife is never seen being spooked in any way. Everything only happens to the husband, so it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that it’s all in his head. A better filmmaker would have TRIED to make us think this, only to show us that it was indeed all real at the end (a trick employed by another genre film in the past few years, though I wont say the name because it SHOULD be seen and has largely been ignored), but no. There is a suggestion that there really is some sort of supernatural presence, but not one that really was causing all of the stuff we saw before (at least, that’s not how it played to me - it just felt like a shoehorned “hey let’s have a final spook moment” idea).

The main actor isn’t very interesting either (I think I commented that he made Sam Worthington look fascinating in comparison), which doesn’t help since he’s the only one anything is happening to. Not that it had one, but a movie like Poltergeist could get away with having a weak link, because there were four others in danger (more if you count the paranormal investigators). But when only one character is seeing creepy things and trying to solve the mystery of his house or why his hand won’t heal (this movie is a lot like For Sale By Owner, now that I think about it), that guy needs to be a Robert Downey Jr or Johnny Depp - an actor who can make even a lousy film enjoyable with his presence. Andrew Bowen is not that guy.

Weirdly, the scariest moment in the movie for me is when he finds what appears to be a face pushing out of a wooden door (or wall, I forget now). Along with fish, I also have an unmotivated fear of bumpy trees/wood (the picture of that guy who was literally turning into a tree scared the shit out of me), so this disturbed me. Attention independent horror filmmakers - if your movie is about someone or something with little wooden “growths” all over it, I guarantee I will be scared by it.

The movie also botches some ripe opportunities. At one point the guy sees his digital clock fading in and out, and the time is 3:12. Now, everyone and their brother knows that 3:15 is THE time in the Amityville movies, so why they didn’t just switch the digit is beyond me, as its close enough to trigger the reference in your head (whereas if it was like, 10:48, I wouldn’t even have thought of it other than possibly “This isn’t as good as Amityville”). Also, the wife’s brother (John Schneider!) is eerily protective of her, and when she finds out she’s pregnant, she tells them both at the same time (?). Since they were going the whole “He’s just crazy” route anyway, they should have pulled a 1960s horror movie route and had Schneider (either alone, or his sister) intentionally trying to make the guy crazy for whatever reason, which would have at least helped explain his behavior.

Another thing that would have improved the movie is better dialogue. Maybe then we wouldn’t have such awkward lines like “I don’t care about that cabin. In fact, I think we should keep it.” If you don’t care about it, why keep it? The conversation is about getting rid of it, so why argue if you don’t care about it? And again, a character is acting oddly for no reason. These things do not work as red herrings, because they’re all far more interesting than the actual reveal.

But it looked nice on my new TV.

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