Shawn and Helen Burnett are trying to overcome the loss of their stillborn baby by leaving the city for a farmhouse. Helen is crushed at their loss and it’s all Shawn can do to accommodate his wife. Soon, however, Shawn begins to grow convinced that the legend of the haunted farm might just be true. As Helen becomes pregnant again, Shawn does his best to keep the disturbing news to himself. When he is put between his love of his wife and the images of his past, it’s all Shawn can do to keep himself sane.
Eddie Murphy had a bit in the 80’s about haunted houses. He basically said white folks stay in a place way too long after the first signs of a ghost. Clearly, the Burnetts haven’t seen his act.
If Conjurer is flawed, it’s not in the cinematography. The film has a lot of slow burn to it, with enough tried and true scare tactics to keep viewers properly jumpy. Director Clint Hutchinson uses props and angles to keep everything just off-center. This allows the real jumps to force viewers to second guess when the next one is coming.
None of the scares are particularly original. Neither are the repeated windmill shots or string section tension. Still, the sum of the film is better than any of these individual parts.
There are some flaws in the writing. The details about the ghost are a little heavy-handed. There could be a little more creativity around the jumps. For the most part, that’s all a wash. The film is well-acted. Dana Niu’s score supports the emotional flow of the characters. After the first act, the pacing (including the use of flashbacks) settles in to keep the film going smoothly. Geoff Leavitt’s visual effects are convincing. Extra credit goes to Hutchinson and writing partner David Yarbrough for not succumbing to the need for a Shayamalan twist ending.
Bowen (Evolution, Immortally Yours) comes across as a poor man’s Hugh Jackman for starters. He doesn’t have the physique of the Australian, but he works the range from concerned artist to petrified ghost hunter well. Maxine Bahns (Brothers McMullen, Paradise Lost) is radiant, and shows her acting chops early. Her Helen is adrift in her emotions, the former tom boy turned heartbroken mother. (With five films in production, expect to see a lot more of her on the big screen.) John Schneider (Dukes of Hazzard, Smallville) is cast as a farmboy housebuilder. Given his acting history and Georgia boyhood, he’s perfect for the part of Frank Higgins.
Conjurer picked up Best Horror Film award at the Action on Film International Film Festival and four other festival selections.
For more information, and a film trailer, visit the official site: www.conjurer-movie.com.