Directed by: James Wan
Written by: Chad Hayes & Carey Hayes (screenplay)
Starring: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Lili Taylor and Ron Livingston
The Conjuring is a legitimately frightening movie without taking the gory (i.e. easy) way out. It is at once an ode to ’70s horror like The Exorcist or Suspiria and a clever subversion of the modern “found footage” sub-genre. The movie is so well-edited and pieced together that other people in the theater I was in shrieked and squirmed in an almost equally convincing manner as the characters.
There are two main families at play here, though the Perrons do a bulk of the screaming. They are a beacon of working class stability, and director James Wan makes it quite clear from the beginning how temporary that is for them as they take up residence in a secluded old house. He stalks the parents and their five daughters through the moving-in process, giving us a sense of their familial rituals while also hinting at how the script (by Chad and Carey Hayes) will later use that against them. ,
Directed by: Vera Farmiga
Written by: Carolyn S. Briggs and Tim Metcalfe (screenplay), Carolyn S. Briggs (novel)
Starring: Vera Farmiga, Joshua Leonard, John Hawkes and Taissa Farmiga
Vera Farmiga often has such a calming presence on a movie, which makes those times when emotions pour out of her all the more affecting. In Higher Ground, she brings that talent not only as the movie’s star but as its director. It is the story of the devout Christian woman Corinne and her lifelong grappling with faith.
Adapted by Carolyn S. Briggs and Tim Metcalfe from Briggs’ book This Dark World, Higher Ground transcends preaching to either side of the issue because nobody involved in its construction is laying judgment. Corinne may be seen as a rebel by her congregation when she asks probing questions about the teachings of the Bible, but to an outsider in the audience they seem perfectly fine.
Directed by: Duncan Jones
Written by: Ben Ripley (screenplay)
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Vera Farmiga, Michelle Monaghan, and Jeffrey Wright
Duncan Jones made noticeable ripples in the independent film landscape back in 2009 with Moon. The main source of its appeal was that it was a low budget sci-fi film with idealism burning at its core instead of special effects and an actor (Sam Rockwell) that brought enough gravity to make you care.
When a filmmaker makes a splash on the indie scene they are sometimes rewarded with a mainstream money-maker. Take a look at Marc Webb, the director of another 2009 indie film, (500) Days of Summer, who is now at the helm of the Spiderman reboot. Jones landed a less lucrative big budget enterprise, but one with a unique vision that is suited to his taste.