Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Conjuring 2

By Sati. Tuesday, June 28, 2016 , , , , , , , ,
Three years ago James Wan gave us one of the best horror movies in recent years in The Conjuring which introduced us to new horror heroes Lorraine and Ed Warren, gave us the spin off in Annabelle and got everyone afraid of the clapping sound. And now Wan and the main characters return in The Conjuring 2, a film that, while only slightly, is actually better than the predecessor.

Ed and Lorraine are called to London. It is year 1977 and the young girl, Janet, one of the several kids under the care of single mom, appears to be the object of possession of the previous owner of the house. While Ed and Lorraine are tying to determine whether the case is genuine or a hoax, Lorraine herself starts being tormented by horrific entity.
There are several things that separate The Conjuring films from other films in the genre. First, they blend classic horror story with modern execution. The haunted house and possessed kids are some of the most famous horror templates. The films don't really offer new spin on those, just tell those stories with diligence, tension and frights. But given the state of the modern horror, the good script and actual atmosphere of tension is quite an accomplishment in itself.

However, those films, while relying in classic sources of scares, are shot in a very modern way - the way Wan and his cinematographer use the space and all the various techniques is so admirable. The scene that I see a lot of people complimented is when we see Ed in the foreground and Janet morphing into Bill, in blurry lense, in the background. But there are tons of ingenious moments like that throughout the movie. You never know what camera will do and what it will show you and that builds one hell of a tension.
What Wan also does so well is putting his own spin on the cliched jump scares. There is whole variety of jump scares here - achieved both with music, sudden appearance of something on the screen etc. But Wan does his double jump scare technique - when something jumps on the screen because it happens in so many horror films you are conditioned to think "oh that is it' and then something even worse happens. Sometimes Wan doesn't even have to do that - even though you know what's gonna happen you are still scared, like in the scene when Lorraine looks in the mirror and each time she does the demon nun is closer and closer to her.

Another thing that sets this movie apart from other horror films these days, is that James Wan is someone who genuinely loves making those films. He was apparently offered a huge amount of money to make the next Fast & Furious movie but declined, because he loves telling scary stories and he wanted to make The Conjuring 2. Wan's movies keep getting better and better. He started with Saw, then followed it with underappreciated Dead Silence, then gave us creepy Insidious and The Conjuring, which until The Conjuring 2 was his best film. I saw few behind the scenes videos and you can see how passionate this guy is about horror genre. And he really gets it - he knows what is scary and what the audience is waiting for.
There is also the impressive commitment both from the crew and the cast - the set was blessed on the first day of filming and wonderfully kooky Farmiga has been talking about bizarre and scary occurrences during filming, while promoting the movie.

The film has several set pieces which are very rich and memorable - from what I think is the scariest scene in the film taking place in the study - to the final moments in London house, but the one that impressed the most was the film's opening with Loraine experiencing some sort of astral projection in Amityville.  Farmiga moves and  does this thing with her hands as if she was holding a shotgun and then the gunshots wounds appear on the victims. It's spectacularly brilliant sequence and even though I'd say that this opening is the film's best sequence, it doesn't take away from the rest of the movie, even if they can't quite match its brilliance.

The most remarkable thing about both The Conjuring films is the amount of heart they have. And that is all hanks to the great story and the main acing duo and their remarkable chemistry. Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson give beautiful performances as the Warrens. What we could sense in the first movie is articulated here - how Ed and Lorraine are both outsiders and how they found each other. They both tell their story to Janet, revealing in the process the underlying truth - they are each other soul mates and through their belief in each other, understanding and love they are each other's miracles.
While watching Farmiga and Wilson together you can't shake off the feeling that you are really watching a married couple. They both seem so familiar and comfortable around each other. The human interaction in these films, being so real and believable, grounds the entire thing in reality no matter how many ghosts, demons or apparitions we see on the screen. We genuinely care for these people and we don't want them to get hurt.

Wan does spend a lot of time building the atmosphere of dread and terror but he gives the same care to the underlying love story. And he mixes these two in having the creepy demon follow Lorraine and torment her with the possibility of losing Ed. And isn't this just another thing that we all universally fear? Finding someone who loves us for who we are, who is our life and then losing that person? That element wasn't there in the first movie - in fact in the first movie it was Ed worrying about Lorraine and how much of a toll her gift takes on her. This time it is Lorraine fighting with the crippling fear of losing the man she loves. And it always me sad knowing that Ed has passed away in real life, several years ago. Lorraine is still alive.
Apparently that demon was some sort of horned creature originally, but then they reshot scenes with it in a new for - of a nun, one which became already such a big deal and sensation, that is getting her own spin off film.  A lot of people laugh how that demon looks like Marilyn Manson and you can see where they are coming from but trust me, it doesn't make it any less scary.

The one thing that I didn't like was that there were actually three separate entities in the movie - a demon, a ghost and....a crooked man. Yes, the iconic boogeyman makes an appearance here and while it's very creepy I felt it was jarring and didn't really fit the rest of the movie. Also having just one antagonist instead of several is always better in a horror movie - when there is just one villain the heroes must deal with, it appears more invincible than few of them which are gradually being defeated by the protagonists. I always use the example of Alien with just one monster and Aliens with hundreds of them. Now come on. Which one was scarier?
The design of the creatures is very cool and bares some resemblance to Wan's other demonic entities - from Insidious films, first Conjuring and Dead Silence. The man has a real talent to introduce all those iconic monsters - the doll from Saw, Annabelle, The Lipstick demon from the first Insidious...Wan has actually managed to create one big fright universe with his films and there are some striking similarities between the opening of this movie and the realm of The Further known from Insidious films.

Another layer of terror comes from the fact that yet again it is the children who are tormented and their mother is powerless to help them. It is the will to help that finally gets Lorraine and Ed there and in the explosive finale it is not only the fight between humans and the supernatural but the battle for Lorraine to keep Ed alive. Rarely great execution, compelling story and great acting are all there in horror films these days and that is what makes The Conjuring 2 so unique.

The Conjuring 2 (USA, 2016, 133 min)
Plot: In 1977, paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren travel to London, England, where single mother Peggy Hodgson believes that something evil is in her home. When Peggy's youngest daughter starts showing signs of demonic possession, Ed and Lorraine attempt to help the besieged girl, only to find themselves targeted by the malicious spirits.
Director: James Wan
Writers:  Carey Hayes, Chad Hayes, James Wan, David Johnson
Stars: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Madison Wolfe


RELATED POSTS:

14 comments:

  1. Great review Sati! James Wan is such a gifted horror director. I hope he never leaves the genre. I'm so glad he didn't do the other fast and furious film. Insidious and the original Conjuring were so terrifying. He really has a gift. I haven't seen Conjuring 2 b/c I've heard it's super scary. I'm going to wait for it on demand so I can run out of the room if need be. I'm a total scaredy cat. I'm so glad he's around b/c we have so few psychological horror films. I feel like the 70s was a great era for psychological horror, but once the slasher films came out--the psychological horror films went by the wayside. I'm so glad that Wan and a few others are bringing the genre back.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! Yeah 70s was an amazing time for horror flicks! Early 00s were too with stuff like The Others and Mulholland Dr. Wan is mixing that with some old school exorcism thing but the elements of that are definitely there

      Delete
  2. Great review. I totally agree that Farmiga and Wilson are super convincing in these films and they're a big part of why they work so well. I hope James Wan is still on board for the next one.

    - Zach

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! I heard Wan may not be available to direct next one :(

      Delete
  3. Good review. I agree that was separates Wan's films from the other films of the genre is the film's aesthetics such as cinematography, set design and so on.

    On the whole, I was less impressed by the film. I felt it spent too much time dialed up to 11 to be generally unnerving. It's a better film when more subtle, such as the scene you mentioned involving Ed talking to Janet whilst she morphs into Bill.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah that was a very well done scene! I like subtle more too which is why I didn't much like those crooked man scenes

      Delete
  4. I'd like to say that I poured over this review carefully, but I had to start skimming. I'm desperate to see this film, uh, and the first, and from what I gather here, clearly I should make that a priority.

    I love the leads and remember initially being surprised that they would not only appear in the first one, but a subsequent sequel. honestly, a lot of theatrically released horror movies look like dogshit, but it looks like Wan has avoided falling into that trap not only once, but twice (which is a small miracle in the genre)!

    You don't even know how much regret I have about this film. But more on that later...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah Farmiga and Wilson both could elevate a bad movie but this one was good in everything else so them being here and their great acting really added a lot. Their chemistry is the best thing here. i hope you will get to see it soon!

      Delete
  5. Beautiful review! This kind of movie isn't really my cup of tea, but the first Conjuring is quite well done.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! It's very scary but it's also a very nice love story too

      Delete
  6. This looks waaay too scary for me Margaret, but glad to hear the sequel lives up to the original! That's good that there's a love story in it as well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's one of the scariest films in the last few years :)

      Delete
  7. Great review. I really liked the first one, it was a rare studio horror film that wasn't as cliched and derivative as most, and this one looks like it definitely lives up to the bar set by the first one. Looking forward to checking it out.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope you'll like it! It's very much like the first one except a little better

      Delete