Goosebumps (2015) Review 

I’ll be finishing Creepy Dolls Week tomorrow with a reblog of a review I did of a British horror classic which happens to contain a creepy ventriloquist’s dummy. Today I’m reviewing a fun recent kids’ film which also happens to contain a creepy ventriloquist’s dummy. What is it with dummies?! They’re clearly evil. Let’s have a look at the Goosebumps movie… 🙂

Goosebumps (2015)

Directed by Rob Letterman

Based on Goosebumps by R. L. Stine

Starring: Jack Black, Dylan Minnette, Odeya Rush, Amy Ryan, Ryan Lee, Jillian Bell, Halston Sage

Music by Danny Elfman

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A teenager teams up with the daughter of young adult horror author R. L. Stine after the writer’s imaginary demons are set free on the town of Madison, Delaware.

My Opinion:

This was my seven-year-old’s first proper live action “scary movie”. I’m happy to report that she loved it. I was too old for R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series when he started it but know I would’ve absolutely loved those books if they’d been around when I was younger. I grew up watching (the original) The Twilight Zone & The Alfred Hitchcock Hour from a very early age (probably 7 or 8) and have loved strange, scary, and/or supernatural & sci-fi stories ever since. As a pre-teen I got into Christopher Pike books (nice & weird – I loved those) and remember reading some pre-Goosebumps R.L. Stine (Twisted, The Babysitter, Blind Date – I had fun looking these up just now & remembering the covers!).

Anyway, I’m not going to force it but I’m hoping that this movie gets my daughter into liking these kind of stories a bit more now. Then she can be as weird as her mother! 😉 I’d love to read the Goosebumps books with her at some point. For those who’ve read them, what sort of ages would you recommend them for? I always thought they were aimed slightly older than this movie, which felt quite “young”. The movie stayed the right side of the line for my daughter – she was a little scared by some bits but I didn’t feel anything was too scary or at all inappropriate. If your kid doesn’t scare easily, I think this is fine for ages 7 & up. Goosebumps is a really fun family movie and, believe me, when you have young kids you appreciate when you start getting to watch some movies with them that you yourself can get some enjoyment from as well!

I of course won’t have had as much fun with this movie as those who read the Goosebumps series, though. I imagine this film was a real treat for his fans. The story’s setup is fantastic, which sees various R.L. Stine monsters brought to life when they’re accidentally released from the manuscripts he keeps locked in order to keep his out-of-control creations imprisoned. Jack Black plays R.L. Stine, which was fine by me as I’m a Jack Black fan & my daughter already liked him thanks to School Of Rock. The film’s concept was very bold & I think it works really well. Imagine this same story with Stephen King. That would be interesting! Can you imagine someone letting Pennywise loose?! (Although, that’s kind of happening in the US & UK at the moment with those asshole clowns running around). Look! Gnomes! I adore garden gnomes. I never thought of them as murderous before this movie…

The werewolf was also pretty cool…

But, of course, the main “monster” unleashed from R.L. Stine’s books is Slappy, this evil-looking ventriloquist’s dummy…

Yep. Dummies are evil! I’ve always known that. There are other creatures that are set loose but these were my favorites & Slappy is definitely the best (and most evil) of them all. He’s not overly terrifying, though – he’s “kid-friendly scary”. If that makes any sense. He won’t be in my nightmares but my daughter might now have a lifelong (healthy) distrust of creepy dummies. Oh, there’s also an abandoned amusement park in this movie (complete with working electricity somehow). I loved the amusement park scenes – what a perfect setting for a kids’ film.

There’s not much more I can really say about Goosebumps other than that it’s great when they actually make decent family films like this one. However, I know you’re unlikely to watch this unless you have children between 7 & 13ish or if you grew up reading the Goosebumps books. Dylan Minnette is fine as the lead teenage boy & I have to say I far prefer this film to the wildly overrated Don’t Breathe (so very NOT a family movie, FYI! Just comparing as he starred in both plus I just reviewed that one recently). I enjoyed Jack Black as always but I thought the biggest stars of this film were Slappy & Stine’s daughter (played by Odeya Rush). She’s a strong female character, which is always important to me as the parent of a girl. I loved a final twist to this movie, which I saw coming from the very start since I’ve lived & breathed these types of stories for 30+ years but know my daughter will have thought “Wow!” to the twist. That’s what I want to see! Her loving a strong story & great twist ending in the same way I did when watching all those Twilight Zone episodes as a kid. I can see Goosebumps being a favorite movie for a lot of kids & thinks it’s one that my daughter will forever be fond of.

My Rating: 7/10

CREEPY DOLLS WEEK ROUNDUP:

The Boy (2016)
Magic (1978)
Dolls (1987)
Annabelle (2014)
Finders Keepers (2014)
– Goosebumps (2015)
Dead Of Night (1945)
My Top Ten Creepy Dolls In Movies & Television

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My Top Ten Creepy Dolls In Movies & Television 

Well, you knew this would be my top ten list for Creepy Dolls Week. I hate dolls, puppets, marionettes, ventriloquist’s dummies, and mannequins (unless there’s some Starship on the movie’s soundtrack). Evil f*^kers! All of them!!!

It was hard to decide on the order for this top ten. I’ve kind of done a combination of how much I liked the movie crossed with how creepy the dolls are. Well, don’t take the order too seriously but I’ve ranked each doll’s creepiness factor.

So here are My Top Ten Movie & TV Creepy Dolls:

10. TIE: The Twilight Zone: Episode – Living Doll (1963) & The Boy (2016)
The Doll: Talky Tina (The Twilight Zone) & Brahms (The Boy)
Doll’s Creepy Rating: Tina: 6/10, Brahms: 7/10

– I adore The Twilight Zone & this episode, starring Telly Savalas as a mean step-father, is a great one. The doll isn’t that scary but it’s a fun story. The Boy, starring The Walking Dead’s Lauren Cohan, has a story with a retro 80’s feel & I really enjoyed it even though it’s predictable. Loved the design of the porcelain doll with the “sweet” face. Not all dolls have to be ugly to be creepy.

9. Trilogy of Terror (1975): Part 3 – Amelia
The Doll: A Zuni fetish doll
Doll’s Creepy Rating: 6.5/10

– It’s been a long time since I saw this horror classic starring Karen Black but I certainly remember the “Amelia” segment, unlike the others in the trilogy. The doll was kind of more funny than scary but it’s a must-see of the killer doll subgenre.

8. The Conjuring (2013) & Annabelle (2014)
The Doll: Annabelle, in real life a Raggedy Ann doll
Doll’s Creepy Rating: 7.5/10

I was quite harsh on Annabelle in yesterday’s review. The movie isn’t very good but the doll itself is effectively creepy while the real life story, as shown in The Conjuring, is far more scary than the made-up story in Annabelle.

7. Pin (1988)
The Doll: Pin (short for Pinocchio) – a doctor’s medical dummy
Doll’s Creepy Rating: 8.5/10

I caught this bizarre movie on TV late one night when I was maybe about 18 or so & that creepy medical dummy has stayed on my mind ever since. Ugh! Look at it!!! From what I remember, this was actually a pretty good psychological thriller (despite some, er, Flowers In The Attic-y incestuous brother/sister stuff).

6. Dolls (1987)
The Doll(s): Various – there’s a creepy old mansion filled with loads of them
Dolls’ Creepy Rating: 7.5/10

This cheesy 80’s horror is loads of fun (and very tame for a Stuart Gordon film). And the chick from the A-ha Take On Me comic book video is in it!

5. Magic (1978)
The Doll: Fats – a ventriloquist’s dummy controlled by Anthony Hopkins
Doll’s Creepy Rating: 8/10

I reviewed this William Goldman written/Richard Attenborough directed film on Monday as one of my Blind Spot choices & recommend it for the great performances from Anthony Hopkins & Burgess Meredith. Good psychological character study also starring Ann-Margret.

4. Dead Of Night (1945)
The Doll: Hugo – a ventriloquist’s dummy controlled by Michael Redgrave
Doll’s Creepy Rating: 8/10

This British horror anthology classic is most memorable for the segment involving Michael Redgrave’s ventriloquist & his dummy, which he believes is alive. Fantastic film that was ahead of its time.

3. Child’s Play (1988)
The Doll: Chucky (aka Charles Lee Ray)
Doll’s Creepy Rating: 7/10

I always had a soft spot for the Child’s Play films (well, the first three – I’ve not watched any further). They’re bad. They’re cheesy. They’re SO Eighties (even though the second two were early Nineties. Never mind). They’re from my teen years, though, and we all like what we grew up on. I was in America & knew nothing of the banning in the U.K. & the reason why. I’ve not watched them since but I can’t leave Chucky off a “creepy dolls” list.

2. Poltergeist (1982)
The Doll: A toy clown
Doll’s Creepy Rating: 8/10

Who doesn’t hate a creepy clown? It’s a well-known phobia, which is why there’s a current “crazy clown” phase going on in the U.S. & U.K. Poltergeist is easily the best film on this list & its clown, although only a small part of the film, has haunted us 80’s kids forever.

1. The Alfred Hitchcock Hour: Episode – Where The Woodbine Twineth (1965)
The Doll: Numa
Doll’s Creepy Rating: 4/10
The Episode’s Creepy Rating: 10/10

This had to be my number one as it’s the one thing responsible for my fear (or, more like a deep distrust now in my old age) of dolls. As you can see, the doll itself in this story wasn’t creepy. Well, there’s a slight creep factor as ALL dolls look like they have murder on their minds but the doll in this was actually very cute and, slight spoiler… Friendly. She’s the best friend of the little girl in the story & the ending of this story scarred me for life. Seriously. The entire episode used to be on YouTube but, at the moment, I can only find a clip of the ending (watch it HERE if you’re curious but I obviously recommend seeing the entire episode if you can). I also found the whole short story, by Davis Grubb, online HERE if you’d like to read it (just remember that it was written in a very different time period). It’s funny – I can barely remember things I watched a year ago but the ending of Where The Woodbine Twineth, which I must have seen at the age of eight or so, is forever burned into my brain. I watched that clip just now, which I last saw probably 30 years ago, and I remembered it like I’d seen it yesterday. That’s the power of good storytelling.

Honorable Mentions:
– The Saw film series (first one 2004) (Doll: Billy The Puppet)
– Dead Silence (2007) (Doll: Billy, a ventriloquist’s dummy)
– The Fear (1995) (Doll: Morty, a wooden mannequin)
Goosebumps (2015) (Doll: Slappy, a ventriloquist’s dummy)
Finders Keepers (2014) (Doll: A possessed doll that may have had a name but I can’t remember & don’t want to watch the movie again because it’s BAD)

A Few Movies I’ve Not seen:
– Puppetmaster (1989) & its sequels
– Demonic Toys (1992)
– Two truly bizarre looking films I’d never heard of until I started looking up creepy doll movies and now I really want to see them! Tourist Trap (1979) & The Pit (1981). Anyone seen these??

Annabelle (2014) & Finders Keepers (2014) Movie Reviews

Welcome to Day 4 of Creepy Dolls Week here at Cinema Parrot Disco! I’ve already reviewed The Boy, Magic, and the imaginatively-titled Dolls. Now let’s have a look at two creepy doll films that, quite frankly, sucked. But, hey – most of the films in this subgenre are pretty crap anyway. More importantly: Are the dolls creepy or not?? Let’s find out…

Annabelle (2014)

Directed by John R. Leonetti

Starring: Annabelle Wallis, Ward Horton, Alfre Woodard (Oh, the lead actress is named Annabelle. Spooky!)

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A couple begins to experience terrifying supernatural occurrences involving a vintage doll shortly after their home is invaded by satanic cultists.

My Opinion:

Annabelle the doll appeared in a short story at the beginning of the rather good (for a modern horror film) The Conjuring. She is a possessed doll from the real life case files of supernatural investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (or whatever title they go by). The “true story” of Annabelle the doll, as told pretty accurately in The Conjuring, is quite interesting & unsettling. (Read it & see the real pictures HERE. Although you may be a little less creeped out when you find out that “Annabelle” is, in reality, a Raggedy Ann doll). The completely made up story in the movie Annabelle is a pathetic attempt to cash in on the interest shown in the creepy doll at the beginning of The Conjuring. The true story is far better and I’m confused as to why they didn’t just use that instead of making up a silly (and not at all scary) story.

Well, no – it’s obvious why they made up a new story. The story of Annabelle works best as a short story & the whole thing was already covered in The Conjuring. But Hollywood has to make money. Like a vampire, it has to suck the lifeblood out of every idea it can sink its teeth into.


Look! A pram/buggy like on the cover of Rosemary’s Baby! Don’t be fooled – Annabelle is no Rosemary’s Baby…

I think one of my biggest problems with this film, meant to be set in 1970, was the look of it. Look at the pictures in this post – it looks like a low budget TV movie. It felt like they bought all the movie’s sets from IKEA’s retro ’70s Ödmjuk Smörboll line. Yeah, I totally Googled “IKEA product names” just now & then got sidetracked and read an article about the system IKEA uses to come up with those strange product names and, seriously, the article was a million times more fascinating than this movie. Anyway! The furniture, clothing, hairdos, etc, just looked so fake and the main actress looked more like she should be on the set of Friends with that hair & makeup. What’s most surprising is that The Conjuring got the look of this time period SO right and, if I’ve read this correctly, Annabelle’s director was the cinematographer for The Conjuring?? Hmm. Well, to be fair: I’m guessing that Annabelle had a far smaller budget.

I really like Alfre Woodard so it was nice to see her in this & she was great as always. But I like when we see her in bigger roles as it feels like she’s often on the sidelines and the same happens again here. Also, I can’t believe that the story used her in such an outdated fashion! I realize it’s set in 1970 but the movie was made now. Why are they still using this ridiculous trope? Oh well – at least we got some quality acting (no one did a bad job in that department, really).

I’m sounding way too bitchy. It’s not like I’ve ever made a movie, right?? To be fair, Annabelle was exactly what I expected: a braindead cash-grab that I could zone out to for an hour & a half. Not gonna lie – I’m tired & I don’t always want to think. No one wants to think all the time! Sometimes we just want to stare at a TV screen like zombies while chewing on some flesh (although I prefer popcorn). Therefore, I didn’t have a horrible time watching this. I enjoy movies about possessed dolls & have watched a lot of them even though very few of them could be called “good”. Annabelle probably ranks somewhere right in the middle if you were to compare the movies in this subgenre (I’d need to see quite a few more before I could really rank them, especially as I shockingly haven’t seen the Puppetmaster films).

Meh. Whatever. I’ve seen this now. I won’t remember much of it in a year. Annabelle herself is a pretty creepy looking doll, though, so they did an okay job with her design. Like the movie, she’s probably somewhere right in the middle of a “creepy movie dolls” list. Yes, I’ve made that list! You can see where I’ve placed her tomorrow. Unless, like the real doll, she mysteriously moves. 😉 (Oh crap – I’ll shit myself if that happens… Why did I type that?! SHE’S NUMBER NINE!!!! Remember that!)

My Rating: 5/10

Finders Keepers (2014)

Directed by Alexander Yellen

Starring: Jaime Pressly, Patrick Muldoon, Tobin Bell, Marina Sirtis, Justina Machado, Kylie Rogers, Mary Pat Gleason

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A divorced mother of one is thrown into turmoil when her young daughter becomes obsessed with an evil doll left behind by the previous occupants of their new home.

My Opinion:

I really went off on one there on Annabelle! I didn’t even hate that as much as it probably seemed. Annabelle deserves an Oscar compared to this. Don’t worry – I promise to not be as bitchy this time & I’ll keep this one short. 😉 This is a TV movie & I watched it with very low expectations. I suppose I was more harsh on Annabelle as I do have higher standards for a Hollywood film with a bigger budget.

I watched this for three reasons: 1) I knew I’d be doing Creepy Dolls Week and 2) It was on Netflix and 3) I noticed that the little girl in it (Kylie Rogers) was the girl from the underrated Space Station 76, which is one of my favorite films I’ve watched this year. I loved her character in that movie: sweet, lonely, and heartbreaking. She’s fine in Finders Keepers but it’s such a poorly written character. What a shame. At least she has SS76 in her credits – it’ll be interesting to see if she goes on to do many more films.

If you’ve ever watched another horror movie in your life, you’ll know the whole story already. Newly divorced mom moves into new home with daughter, daughter finds super ugly doll hidden in the floorboards which is naturally possessed because all super ugly dolls are possessed, mother has to investigate the history of the doll in order to save her daughter (using the expert opinion of a friend who falls into the same sort of ridiculous trope as Alfre Woodard’s character in Annabelle).

SPOILERS – I’m going to tell you who dies! Because you already know as everything is so damn obvious & cliché.

Oh look! It’s Marina Sirtis from one of my favorite ever TV shows (Star Trek: TNG) as the new friendly neighbor. She’s so dead! Wow – they got Saw’s Jigsaw himself, Tobin Bell, to play the child psychologist who suspects the girl’s mother of child abuse instead of the crazy psycho doll hurting the girl. Jigsaw: So Dead. Ex-husband’s new girlfriend: DEAD. Mother’s friend, a college professor (I think?) who is an expert on the type of voodoo or whatever the hell was going on with the doll – I wasn’t paying a whole lot of attention because I was bored: So VERY dead! Professor’s assistant: Dead. Um, who else? Oh, that woman with the really recognizable face! Wow – I can’t even remember her character now. Was she a waitress? This movie doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page so I can’t check. Ha! She’s such a “Hey, it’s that gal” actor, though. She was clearly brought in just to: BE DEAD

I think there may have been more but I can’t remember. Guy who sold them the house, maybe? This movie had a high death toll! What about the mother, daughter & ex-husband (who turns out to be nice)? ALIVE! Of course. And living happily ever after. At least, until that cliché “let’s leave this open for a sequel” ending. 

So, yeah – Finders Keepers isn’t a good movie. But it’s a TV movie & I’ve seen worse (I was obsessed with TV movies when I was younger & had spare time to watch loads of shit. So. Much. Wasted. Time.)! At least it had recognizable faces in it (stick to comedy like My Name Is Earl, Jaime Pressly! Loved that show). Is the doll creepy? Fairly. I’d say the doll has a decent design. It doesn’t have a massive head like in the movie’s poster at the top, though. It’s hilarious that it looks as big as the girl in the poster.

My Rating: 3.5/10

Magic (1978) Blind Spot Review

Welcome to Creepy Dolls Week! Let’s look at Magic’s impressive set of names: Richard Attenborough, William Goldman, Anthony Hopkins, Ann-Margret, Burgess Meredith… Wow! This is why I added Magic to my Blind Spot list. Was it as good as the talent involved would suggest?

Magic (1978)

Directed by Richard Attenborough

Based on Magic by William Goldman

Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Ann-Margret, Burgess Meredith, Ed Lauter, David Ogden Stiers

Music by Jerry Goldsmith

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A ventriloquist is at the mercy of his vicious dummy while he tries to renew a romance with his high school sweetheart.

My Opinion:

Here’s a quick list of links to my 2016 Blind Spot Reviews so far, including where I’d rank Magic:

9. Phenomena – 7/10
8. An Education – 7/10
7. Magic – 7/10
6. Summer Wars – 7/10
5. True Romance – 7/10
4. THX 1138 – 7.5/10
3. Play Misty For Me – 7.5/10
2. Battle Royale – 8/10
1. Natural Born Killers – 8/10

Of all the impressive names attached to this film, it was actually William Goldman’s that convinced me I should put this movie on my Blind Spot list & finally get around to watching it. Written by the same guy who wrote The Princess Bride, one of the best movies in the history of history??? Oh hell yeah – I had to see this. Plus I admit I have a strange fascination with/fear of ventriloquist’s dummies and this film’s cover has a suitaby creepy one (named “Fats” in the movie). Look at that face! What an evil looking bastard. Can you imagine that thing sitting in your home? Staring at you? Watching you dress? Hogging the remote control? Leaving the toilet seat up? Well, Ann-Margret seemed to find it charming…

Anthony Hopkins is great in this & it’s easy to see why he’s become such a highly respected actor. This is the type of role that can go seriously wrong if not played right but he does the “vulnerable, possibly insane, slowly becoming unhinged” thing perfectly. Then we have the brilliant Burgess Meredith as Hopkins’ high-powered agent who is trying to get a TV show deal for Hopkins & Fats. Aww. I love Burgess Meredith! I’ve had a soft spot for him ever since his various roles in my absolute favorite TV show growing up, the original The Twilight Zone (he just wanted to be left alone to READ!). I suppose I should get around to watching those Rocky films someday, huh? Anyway, he was a delight in Magic & probably my favorite thing about it. He looked weird with a partially shaved head, though.

Speaking of The Twilight Zone, I suppose I have to admit that Magic’s story doesn’t feel totally original as it was done before in things such as, yes, The Twilight Zone as well as in the not-as-well-known-as-it-should-be British horror anthology Dead Of Night. However, this story is often repeated because it’s a damn good one & Goldman has created very strong characters in order to pull it off. I’ll always happily watch the various ways of going about telling this same “crazy ventriloquist OR crazy dummy?” story.

Unfortunately, while I adore movies from the Seventies, this one hasn’t aged quite as well as some. The strong characters stop when we get to the one female in this film: Ann-Margret. She played the role fine but her character is flaky & far too forgiving. But I suppose that’s kind of the point of her character as she’s married to a possessive man, meaning that when she has an affair with Hopkins & he starts displaying bizarre behavior she just puts up with it as it’s the sort of behavior she’s come to expect. It was a different time, though, and I can’t say this hurt the film too much overall. But I couldn’t help but think that I’d kick that crazy dude & his ugly dummy the hell out of my house! No, wait – I wouldn’t let them in in the first place. You are NOT coming into my house with that dummy. I don’t care if we were friends in high school! And don’t send me any social media friend requests, either. Weirdo.

Magic is a good film. It won’t become an all-time favorite of mine but I’m glad I finally watched it. The story is well told with strong characters but I have a feeling it maybe worked slightly better in the book? Has anyone here read it? However, the acting really makes this film far better than it would’ve been had less talented people been involved. I do recommend Magic if it appeals to you in any way as I think it would be worth your time, especially if you’re a fan of Hopkins & appreciate good performances.

My Rating: 7/10

This song is in no way, shape or form related to this film. It’s just now stuck in my head. And I like it. 😉

The Boy (2016) Review

The Boy (2016)

Directed by William Brent Bell

Starring: Lauren Cohan, Rupert Evans, Jim Norton, Diana Hardcastle

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
An American nanny is shocked that her new English family’s boy is actually a life-sized doll. After she violates a list of strict rules, disturbing events make her believe that the doll is really alive.

My Opinion:

I was very much in the mood for a “light & predictable psychological horror movie without lots of gore” this weekend. Yay! That’s exactly what I got with The Boy! Is it some groundbreaking horror film? No. Did I know exactly where the story was going? Yes. Is it full of all the usual horror tropes? Oh god yes. Did I enjoy it, though? Yes – I thought it was perfectly fine for its genre.

I admit that I’m a sucker for any “creepy doll” horror movie and this one has a great, creepy little bastard. Look at him! Porcelain face & everything. That’s the stuff of nightmares. And, of course, the movie is set in a big, old, British house in the middle of nowhere (with no phone signal, of course!!) and the boy’s “parents” are two eccentric, posh old British people (because there’s something seriously disturbing about eccentric, posh old British people). And an attractive man the same age as the pretty American nanny who has been hired to babysit “the boy” for the summer drops by once a week to deliver groceries. He’s super cute. He could deliver MY groceries anytime!

It was nice to see Maggie from The Walking Dead wearing make-up & getting to actually take a shower. Hey, why do women taking showers in these movies always seductively soap up their legs? Who actually scrubs their legs clean (unless you’re washing off zombie blood or something)? Also, women never shave their legs in these movies. They get in the shower all hair-free & slowly rub their legs with soap then get out of the shower with full eye make-up on. Anyway! As much as I hate creepy dolls, I think I’d choose living with one & getting to take showers over living in a zombie apocalypse. Plus the grocery guy is way cuter than anyone on The Walking Dead. Oh… I forgot about Jesus! Jesus is quite hot. Am I going off on a tangent? I might as well just wrap things up. Here’s Jesus from The Walking Dead:

Summary:

The Boy may not try anything new but, well, who cares? When it comes to horror, I admit that I have lower standards and when one surprisingly manages to not totally suck, I’m happy enough (which is why I’m actually giving this a higher rating than the movie I watched with extremely high expectations the same day, Zootropolis, which I trashed HERE). This movie is the type of horror that I always enjoy: atmospheric, psychological, low on gore. And has a creepy doll, of course!

Sure, it’s amazing that there have finally been some truly fantastic & original horror films the past few years with things like It Follows and The Babadook but horrors as good as those are very few & far between. In the meantime, I’m satisfied with ones like The Boy. It had no hateful idiotic characters who did extremely stupid things, the story was solid even though it was predictable to anyone who has watched more than two horror movies in their lifetime, and it looked good and seemed to have had some effort put into it. Good enough! It’s unlikely that I’d ever watch it again but it was all I expected it to be for 1 hour & 37 minutes of veg-out entertainment.

My Rating: 7/10

**Speaking of creepy dolls, I keep meaning to do a week of “creepy doll horror movies“. I’ve only reviewed a couple – the silly but quite fun 1987 film Dolls and the 1945 British horror classic Dead Of Night, which has the creepiest type of doll possible: a ventriloquist’s dummy.

Yikes! I hate those things! That’s why I’ve chosen to do the Anthony Hopkins film Magic as one of my 2016 Blind Spot picks. I think I just want to never be able to sleep again… So I’ll review Magic & some other creepy doll/puppet/ventriloquist dummy movies all in the same week (probably in October). I guess I’ll finally get around to watching Annabelle for that but I thought that one looked pretty dodgy… Does anyone have any other recommendations for movies of this type?? 🙂

The Conjuring (2013) Review

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The Conjuring

Directed by James Wan

Starring:
Vera Farmiga
Patrick Wilson
Ron Livingston
Lili Taylor

Running time: 112 minutes

Plot Synopsis:

This “based on a true story” movie follows paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (played by Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson) as they investigate mysterious supernatural occurrences at the home of the Perron family (parents played by Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor).

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My Opinion:

I really enjoyed this film. I rarely watch horror movies anymore as they seem to have turned into nothing but the torture porn variety that I can’t stand. Give me either a good old fashioned 70s & 80s slasher with cheesy special effects I can actually handle or a creepy old-school supernatural thriller. The Conjuring, I’m happy to say, comes pretty close to feeling like a genuine 70s supernatural thriller.

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The Conjuring opens with the Warrens showing us a previous case they worked on where a doll had become possessed. Dolls freak me out. Dolls freak a lot of people out and the makers of The Conjuring clearly know this. They take as many horror movie cliches as they can and throw them all at us. But all horror movies do this anyway. The Conjuring at least manages to use every trick in the book in a few fairly original & effective ways. (To be honest, the doll was too over-the-top freaky. The music box was more subtle & far creepier… )

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The Conjuring takes place in the 70s, which helps add to the overall creepiness. I’m a sucker for 70s films so that will have helped my enjoyment of this.The clothes! The cars! The 70s were so groovy! (From what I remember of the decade as I spent the latter part of it watching Sesame Street). So I really liked the look of the film. It’s no The Shining as far as the look and feel go (can anything really beat that one?!). But I appreciate the effort they put into making this feel more like a good old-school haunted house movie.

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Did The Conjuring scare me? I know that’s the main question people seem to be asking. Well, I can’t really think of a movie that ever HAS scared me. There are some that give me the heebie jeebies a little bit. The one I just mentioned, The Shining, is probably the film I find the creepiest and comes the closest to “scaring” me. The Conjuring didn’t scare me, no, but had I seen it for the first time alone & in the middle of the night, I’m pretty sure I’d have slept with the lights on.

It’s fairly intense and that tired old “based on a true story” thing DOES seep into your brain whether you believe it or not – that’s why so many horror movies use that line. (I’ve not yet looked into the true story of the Warrens & Perron family so can’t comment on how true this film actually is). I was a little bit jumpy through the film but, as always, you know when the scares are coming. The film also shows us more of the “ghostly visitors” than I was expecting but I know they need to keep things balanced as the younger cinema goers expect that these days. I’ve always been someone who’s been more scared by the things we don’t actually see. However, I think The Conjuring strikes a decent balance at trying to keep the old-school supernatural horror fans like me and the current generation of fans happy.

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The number one reason that I think makes this film stand out so much compared to other horror films of recent years, though, is this: The acting (particularly the two female leads). Too many current horror films are full of either horrible acting or completely unlikeable characters. I don’t want to watch a movie with either of these things – I don’t think the rules should be any different for the horror genre. Lili Taylor was the best thing about this film for me. She was genuinely believable as a loving mother who just wants to protect her five daughters. I know she’s been in plenty of things in more recent years but not much that I’ve seen so it was great seeing her in a big role in this – I’ve always especially loved her part in Say Anything. Vera Farmiga is also great in this although I kind of feel I’ve seen her play a similar role before. The bond the two woman share as they both have daughters was very good. The men are fine but really take a backseat to all the females in the film (Ron Livingston especially seems to have very little to do). Being a woman, I really liked seeing a film with such strong female leads. Even all six daughters in this film do an excellent job, which is great as there has been some especially bad child-acting in horror films.

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Summary:

The Conjuring uses every trick in the book to scare us but at least uses those tricks in some fairly original & effective ways. The film has a good look & feel which will keep fans of old fashioned horror films happy but I think should also please a younger generation of fans who want something other than torture porn. But the thing that makes the film stand out the most in its genre is some great performances, especially those of the strong female leads. This film feels like a more grown-up horror film and will hopefully pave the way for similar films in this genre. I don’t think it’s the best “haunted house” film I’ve seen but it’s a refreshing return to an old formula that’s a step in the right direction in a generation now filled with some mind-numbingly bad and excessively gory so-called horror films.

My Rating: 7.5/10

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