THE CONJURING. High-schoolers who savor tales of the occult will find satisfying chills in “The Conjuring,” said to be based on a 1971 case in Rhode Island. Yes, it brims with cinematic cliches — creaking doors, mysterious sounds, skittering spirits — but it works. Long-distance trucker Roger and his fragile wife, Carolyn, move with their five daughters into a big, old house, where they discover a boarded-up cellar full of cobwebby antiques and start hearing noises. Two married “demonologists” come to the house and try to expel the demon. The finale involves a violent but not-too-graphic exorcism.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Most of the demons and scenes of possession are relatively understated and without gore. It is the film’s ever-increasing sense of menace, the endangerment of children, suicide themes and the violent treatment of a possessed character during an exorcism — levitation, hurtling against walls — that earn the R rating. The dialogue is relatively free of profanity. One discussion between characters seems to imply that the Salem witch trials of 1692 were justified.
FRUITVALE STATION. This is a serious, edgy drama based on a real incident. Thoughtful high-schoolers aware of the recent acquittal of George Zimmerman in the killing of Trayvon Martin will find it compelling. Director-screenwriter Ryan Coogler takes a clear-eyed approach to the story of Oscar Grant, a young African American man who was unarmed when he was fatally shot by a transit officer at the Fruitvale BART Station in Oakland, Calif. The movie opens with an actual video (not graphic) of the event taken by a witness. Then it backtracks. We learn that Oscar was not a model citizen; that he once dealt drugs, served time and had anger problems. But he was complex, usually well-meaning and trying to turn his life around.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The shooting in the real video and in the reenactment is not graphic, but the scuffles with police and the fight that breaks out are harshly realistic, as are flashbacks to a time Oscar’s mother visited him in prison. Scenes in the operating room involve a lot of blood. Characters use strong profanity, drink and smoke pot. Oscar and his girlfriend have scenes that are sexually charged but non-explicit.
Horwitz is a freelance writer.
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