Conjurer's Tricks 

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There are haunted houses in Whistler and at least one haunted hotel.

Over the years I've met and known people who will "swear, to-whatever-you-want man," that they've woken up and seen/sensed/were absolutely sure there was a presence in the room with them. I've heard tales of spectres sitting in the rafters and glasses that knock themselves off bar shelves. Last autumn our friends and comrades over at the other newspaper even brought in a medium, who confirmed paranormal activity at least one known Whistler haunting spot.

But so far we've been pretty lucky. We've never seen anything like the unholy mayhem unleashed on the poor folks in The Conjuring, which opens this week in the good old Village 8 Cinemas. Whistler ghosts seem a bit more laid back.

Vera Farminga (Up in the Air, The Departed) and Patrick Wilson (Promethus, Factory Girl) star as a married couple of ghost hunter/spirit seeker types back in 1971 who end up getting called to help a family with five young girls fend off some pissed-off supernatural evil who doesn't mind throwing every classic cliché of the haunted house (sub)genre at them.

You want one of those creepy hanging trees like the one in House of 1,000 Corpses or The Hanging Tree? You got it. How about a freaky old music-box-mirror reflection scene? Check. Kid tossed around on bed? Yup. Eerie Grudge-style ghoul lurking near the ceiling? Uh huh. But the thing is, director James Wan (Saw, Insidious) is fully aware of his genre's conventions and he plays around with them nicely. The Conjuring delivers nothing new but the filming is adequately creepy, the acting is just serious enough, and Wan dishes up classic 14A scares. Despite all the recycled material The Haunting ends up a lot better than it should be, and more fun.

Also opening this weekend (speaking of rehashing content) Red 2 revisits the comic-book-inspired premise of a bunch of senior citizen super agents thrust back into the field of duty for one final mission. There are multiple explosions, gunfights, cars flying trough the air and a host of Academy Award regulars like Helen Mirren, Anthony Hopkins and John Malkovich, alongside washed up action regulars Bruce Willis and Brian Cox, with Catherine Zeta Jones and Mary Louise-Parker thrown in as the youngish hotties.

Red 2 looks like road rash feels and it's nearly two hours long. No thanks. But it all begs the question: who is this film aimed at? Who is the target audience that propelled the first Red to a $200 million box office? I'm pushing 40 and this looks like crap to me. I have friends nearing 50 who would hate it even more. And my father (64 this year) would just turn it off and wistfully recall the comedy high-water marks of his day like Blazing Saddles and A Fish Called Wanda. Certainly, everyone has bills to pay and I'm sure the talent involved was hoping for an Ocean's 65-type working holiday with free coffee at McDonalds. But what Hollywood executives think this looks awesome?

Or is it just a diss? The original Red director, Robert Schwentke, also has a flick out this week called R.I.P.D. It's basically Men in Black but with evil souls stalking the earth instead of aliens. Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges are the odd-couple deceased lawmen that have to stop them and, you guessed it, save the world! Mary Louise Parker is in this one too, so it seems Hollywood is getting real incestuous with its recycling and overlapping of content. Incest causes birth defects though, so bring on the mutants! The Wolverine opens next Thursday.

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