Reel Critics: 'R.I.P.' should end with '-O.F.F.'

If they ever create an Oscar category for multi-level plot theft, "R.I.P.D." would win the first award. The initials stand for "Rest in Peace Department" and the screenplay follows a trail blazed by several blockbuster films that came before. This movie borrows from so many categories it's hard to keep track.

It's a sci-fi spectacle, action-adventure, oddball fantasy, cop-buddy comedy with romantic overtones. No kidding. It plays out as though the "Men in Black" meet the "Ghostbusters" and "Beetlejuice" so they can "Die Hard" with "True Grit."

Ryan Reynolds and Kevin Bacon play cops and robbers in the afterlife with a host of bizarre characters in the chase. But Oscar-winner Jeff Bridges steals the show playing an undead crusty 1880s lawman reminiscent of his role as Rooster Cogburn.

The many cinematic elements have all been seen before, but never all in one film. If it sounds completely derivative, it is. But the snappy dialogue and first-rate actors make the predictable cinematic ride worthwhile.


'Conjuring' up a scare

If you are brave enough to see "The Conjuring," be prepared to have the living daylights scared out of you.

Director James Wan, who also did the first "Saw" and "Insidious" movies, shows restraint in giving us a well-crafted, old-fashioned haunted house story. It's even creepier as it's purportedly based on actual events.

Roger and Carolyn Perron (Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor) move into their vintage New England house with their five daughters, and immediately strange things happen.

The dog refuses to come inside, and strange sounds and smells are encountered. Carolyn wakes up with huge bruises on her body, and one of the girls complains of someone grabbing her ankles in her sleep. At least they have the good sense to turn the lights on before entering a room.

Things get so menacing the Perrons engage real-life paranormal specialists Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga). A demure, God-fearing clairvoyant, Lorraine becomes as spooked as the rest of us.

The terrors escalate almost unbearably, aided by the realistic script and acting. The children's fear was palpable, and so was mine.

Most horror flicks these days take pride in giving us buckets of blood and brains, but that doesn't make them scary, just gross. "The Conjuring" conveys the presence of good and evil in our everyday world quite convincingly, and our audience applauded in appreciation.

This is scariest movie I've seen since "The Exorcist." So happy I saw it in broad daylight.

JOHN DEPKO is a retired senior investigator for the Orange County public defender's office. He lives in Costa Mesa and works as a licensed private investigator. SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa and is an executive assistant for a company in Irvine.

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