I guess the theme name was an attempt at a pun, so we’re off to great start.
Silky faux cobwebs dangled from the signs. Stevie Wonder hollered from a nearby radio, reminding us that superstition ain’t the way. Jon Snow and Avatar Aang passed each other by the elevators without remark.
It was time to get spooked.
Folks in the breezeway lined up to make lanterns out of mason jars and carve pumpkins into grinning jack o’ lanterns.
The Grand Ballroom was awash with flickering lights, through which wound the queue for a haunted house — well, more a string of connected tents than a house — out of which emanated the requisite shrieks and prerecorded ambient noise and chainsaw snarls. The first episode of the Simpsons’ Treehouse of Horror playing on the projector screen didn’t quite fit in the the room’s atmosphere.
The Second Floor Screen:
Waiting for the night’s feature presentation to begin, they didn’t shut the auditorium doors all the way. Thus one had to endure dueling Halloween playlists: “Oogie Boogie’s Song” from The Nightmare Before Christmas swinging along under the black skies of Wojiech Kilar’s score for Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Michael Jackson singing “Thriller” to the frenzied strings of Bernard Herrmann’s score for Psycho.
So The Conjuring began promisingly enough, ratcheting up suspense with James Wan’s nimble camera and a reliance on understated practical effects to depict a story from the case files of exposed frauds Ed and Lorraine Warren.
But things get less understated and, frankly, less frightening as the film goes on. The movie overreaches in trying to connect the demonic presence in the old house to the collection of occult artifacts in the Warrens’ home, and by the end James Wan is trying to outdo William Friedkin for exorcism antics. Here’s a tip, horror filmmakers: don’t try. You likely can’t.