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by Walter Chaw I like the Conjuring movies--or, rather, I've come to appreciate them independent of their actual quality. I like them not because of their supernatural stuff or sometimes-expert jump scares, but because they're a popular mainstream film series--one that has suspiciously little to do with any conjuring--about a corny, middle-aged, 1960s married couple who are hot for each other. They own a small business together and respect the unique skill sets the other one brings to the table. Their marriage is as solid as American steel. Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) thinks Ed (Patrick Wilson) is the manliest man that ever manned; Ed thinks Lorraine is the most spiritual spiritualist to ever spiritual. In each other's eyes, they are the utmost. I bet the sex is incredible. Ed and Lorraine are based on real-life couple the Warrens, who earned a living as the kind of sideshow hucksters James Randi made it his holy mission to expose. Yet as immortalized in this flourishing billion-dollar franchise, they are golden and perfect. They are Ozzie & Harriet: Demonologist Exorcists, and these movies are vehicles for their vintage, good ol' middle-American can-do spirit. They're what Republicans used to be before devolving into domestic terrorists and Christo-fascist cultists, and so they carry with them a trace of nostalgia for a time before this country seemed irrevocably divided. In this cinematic universe, the threat isn't only from within.
This does open up the opportunity for one of a pair of tributes to the amazing Texas Switch in Mario Bava's Shock--the one where a thing that is bigger than it looks can loom up over someone in whom we have invested some emotion. It's cool the first time it happens and less cool the next time--the law of diminishing returns something this series should consider as a whole. Now, it turns out this demon is not possessing Arne full-time for reasons to do with a bone totem Lorraine discovers in the crawlspace underneath David's waterbed. We know this because, in a largely unmotivated and extended flashback that stops the movie dead, we see David trying out his new waterbed. Actually, I do know why there's a flashback: because the screenwriter handbook says something has to happen every 15 minutes, and this flashback happens at the 30-minute mark. The problem with this "scary" scene is that it shows David recognizing his waterbed is haunted, but because of the opening sequence, we know he got possessed anyway. This means David slept on the fucking bed despite dire warnings, meaning he deserves to get possessed, the little fool. Lorraine takes pictures of the totem, and later another bone totem surfaces in Ed's office. Ed, who has had a heart attack and been in a coma for a while suddenly finds himself in the forest chasing after Lorraine, who has been possessed or at least overtaken by a vision of something terrible and almost runs off a cliff--but Ed grabs her in time. Phew!
There's a police procedural element where Lorraine does a Dalai Lama trick of picking out the right artifact to prove to credulous Sgt. Clay (Keith Arthur Bolden) that she's for real (Ed never doubted for a moment); a visit to creepy exposition dispenser Father Kastner (John Noble), who shows the Warrens his collection of evil books in his farmhouse basement; and a separate timeline depicting an early adventure (it's love) between Young Ed (Mitchell Hoog) and Young Lorraine (Megan Ashley Brown). I laughed with sweet delight when Lorraine, with a look of complete disgust, tells Father Kastner, referring to his collection, "You should burn all this." Farmiga's line delivery is perfect mom-in-her-dotage "lemme talk to your manager." Ed says in a no-nonsense daddy way, "I don't suppose you have all these books organized by the Dewey Decimal System, do ya?" Kastner launches into a story that includes a baby with its heart born on the outside--which, of course, is the same thing Glen says in Raising Arizona when relating the dire selection of adoptable babies in Maricopa County. Yes, Conjuring 3 is incredibly bad, completely incoherent, and also a hoot. I mean, settling in to watch it for this review, it took me an hour to realize I'd already seen it. But, look, there's a scene in a police station where something significant happens while an entire room full of cops responds to something they can't possibly see. Then the movie cuts to Elvis singing "Suspicious Minds" as Lorraine says she met Elvis once and Ed, in the back seat, smiles in an entirely unreadable way, leading me to think "orgy, probably" or "cuckold fantasy," but maybe I've just seen too many Patrick Wilson movies.
THE 4K UHD DISCThe first of the Conjuring movies to get a physical 4K release, find the 2.39:1, 2160p video transfer of this expensive, mainstream, big-budget, by-the-numbers tentpole franchise garbage horror movie to be predictably eye-shattering. Presented with HDR10, the image is purposefully dim, although enthusiastic highlights lend a ton of visual interest, like the twinkling, almost celestial lights above young Lorraine and Ed as they act moony in a gazebo. Shadows are credibly black while the wider colour gamut shifts the colour grade away from the slight teal lean of the accompanying Blu-ray towards a more brownish-purple reminiscent of Ektachrome--a palette that better suits the period vibe. Red light sources, for what it's worth, burn with a hellish intensity they lack in SDR. Fine detail is super-fine, with settings like Kastner's basement library so sharp I felt I could read the titles of every grimoire if only the camera would move a bit closer. It might be too tactile in places, veering dangerously close to motion-smoothing territory: The digital source, upconverted from a 2K DI for this presentation, is so frictionless it loses any chance of filmic texture. The attendant Dolby Atmos audio bears down on you in its 7.1 Dolby TrueHD mixdown, yet I can't help thinking that for a horror movie this reliant on deep atmosphere and jump-scares, it all comes off a little thin. The opening exorcism is the key exception, filling the room with wind, a weird sizzling noise that creeped me out almost more than the events on screen, and enough explosive volume to become immersive. While it's technically irreproachable, this track, the bar has been set high enough at this point that I'm disappointed, almost bored, by the mix proper. It lacks imagination, sharing that deficiency with the film itself.
Go Into the Story is the official blog for The Blacklist, the screenwriting community famous for its annual top ten list of unproduced scripts. One useful feature of Go Into the Story is its bank of downloadable movie scripts.
Over the course of the following week, the Brownshirts maintained an ominous torchlit vigil outside the Mozartsaal, threatening to burn the theatre to the ground were the movie to be shown again. The bullying tactics worked. Many theatres subsequently refused to screen All Quiet on the Western Front, and those who did could only do so under heavy police protection. Soon, the liberal Weimar Republic, painfully aware of the growing Nazi menace and its own precarious grip on power, caved into pressure.
Almost every anti-war movie made afterwards relied on many of the tropes invented by the 1930 version of All Quiet on the Western Front: the lost innocence of youth; the bonding between brothers in arms; the boredom and banality in the lulls between fighting; the incompetent generals yearning for glory; the soldiers as expendable fodder; and war as an affront against both humanity and nature. 2b1af7f3a8