Tag Archive: The Conjuring

A lot of horror films aren’t great, so it’s even more rare to find a horror sequel that gets the job done. The Conjuring was a huge hit back in the summer of 2013, scaring the pants off of critics and making over $300 million worldwide in the process. A sequel to this supernatural shocker was only inevitable, but no one expected it to be almost as good as the original. Returning to the director’s chair is James Wan, who has essentially become a horror juggernaut, making franchises out of Saw, Insidious and now The Conjuring. While most of the sequels to his hit films have been misfires – including the dreadful Conjuring spinoff AnnabelleThe Conjuring 2 is the rare horror sequel that works. Utilizing effective jump scares and frightening imagery, it’s a legitimately scary horror film that’s perfect to see with a crowd.

Six years after their investigation into the haunting of the Perron family, Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) continue investigating the paranormal. Having just looked into the haunting of Amityville, there are still many skeptics who don’t believe the claims made by the Warrens. But that might all change when Ed and Lorraine travel to England to help a mother (Frances O’Connor) whose home is being terrorized by an otherworldly force that’s formed an attachment to her daughter Janet (Madison Wolfe). The evidence that this is a real haunting seems strong, but the church wants the Warrens to dig a little deeper to ensure that this isn’t a hoax. What they discover is one of their most terrifying and dangerous cases yet.

The biggest problem with The Conjuring 2 – and really the film’s only major misstep – is that it’s way too long. Unless you’re making an epic horror film like The Shining or The Exorcist, every director should try to generally keep their horror films less than two hours. The Conjuring 2 clocks in at an egregious two hours and fourteen minutes, which is over twenty minutes longer than its predecessor. A large chunk of these extra minutes are devoted to developing the characters of Ed and Lorraine Warren and while that’s fine in theory, a lot of their individual scenes should have ended up on the cutting room floor. Not only does this cause the film to overstay its welcome, it also severely disrupts the flow of the movie. There’s at least one large segment of the film without any legitimate scares and this means that the sequel is unable to match the near-continuous dread of its predecessor.

But if this film had been shorter and tighter, there’s a chance that it could have ended up better than the original. There are some really great scares here that are both subtly scary and in-your-face obvious. One of the best scenes in the movie involves a painting depicting a demon nun. Lorraine Warren chases a spirit into a dark room and finds a painting of the being hanging on the wall. In the darkness, the painting looks like it could be real, but Wan ensures that the audience is never certain. It’s a great scene of anticipation; we know the scare is coming, but we don’t know when. Scenes like this one show how Wan is so great at manipulating an audience for maximum effect. He toys with our anticipation and knowledge of horror films, thus playing the audience like a frightened fiddle.

There are also some quieter scares in the film that work like gangbusters. The aforementioned nun is incredibly discomforting and its appearance at the end of a long hallway is easily the scariest image in the film. If anything is going to frighten you once the movie is over, it’s this. But another great scene occurs when the Warrens are attempting to discover if Janet is really being haunted. Janet tells them that the old man who is haunting her will only appear if everyone in the room turns their backs to her. They comply and while the camera is focused on Ed Warren, a sinister presence slowly begins to transform in Janet’s place. It’s a creepy effect that isn’t initially obvious, but it’s definitely one of the most unique scenes in the film.

Not every scare is quite as effective and one of the monsters feels strangely reminiscent of 2014’s The Babadook, but this is definitely a notch above most modern horror flicks. Wan doesn’t make raw, visceral horror films, choosing instead to treat his material like an amusement park ride. It provides some great thrills while you’re in the moment, but it certainly isn’t likely to keep you awake at night. Unlike this year’s brilliant The Witch, which some people may find uncomfortable or unnecessarily slow, The Conjuring 2 is a horror film that pretty much everyone can enjoy.

The Conjuring 2 receives 3/4


Annabelle – Movie Review

Last year, James Wan’s The Conjuring scared the pants off of millions of moviegoers, grossing over $300 million worldwide and earning rave reviews from practically everyone who saw it. While I didn’t love it quite as much as everyone else seemed to, I still thought that it was a solid throwback to old school fright fests with a handful of masterful scares. One of the most memorable images in the movie was of the creepy doll Annabelle. Now she’s got her own spinoff movie, an origin story for a possessed object that we definitely did not need to know the origin of. Regular James Wan cinematographer John R. Leonetti has stepped in to direct and while he’s successfully reproduced the visual style that Wan has become famous for, he can’t produce the tone, story, characters or scares that elevate most of Wan’s efforts above the normal horror standard. Filled with cheap jump scares, uninteresting characters and a general lack of creativity, Annabelle is one of the worst horror movies of the year.

One year before the events of The Conjuring, we’re introduced to Mia (Annabelle Wallis) and John (Ward Horton), a young California couple with a baby on the way. While decorating the child’s nursery, John surprises Mia with the gift of a rare doll. One night, their neighbors are murdered by a man and woman associated with the occult. The intruders sneak over to their house and manage to attack Mia before the police arrive to save them. Perhaps most alarming is the obsession that the woman intruder had with Mia’s new doll. Mia eventually has her baby, but the trauma that she experienced in her home ends up being too much for her, so she and John move into a new apartment. But when spooky things begin to go bump in the night, Mia starts to lose her sanity and she believes that it’s somehow all connected to her new doll.

One of the laziest things for a horror movie to do is rely too heavily on jump scares. While they can be done effectively, nearly all the scares in Annabelle can be attributed to loud noises that cheaply try to startle the audience. Why do certain directors try to pass this off as being scary? Sure, they’ll make the audience jump, but it will be because of a reaction to a loud noise, not a true jump out of fear. Most of Wan’s efforts get their scares from the impressive makeup creations, disturbing imagery and sequences of almost unbearable suspense. This film has none of those things and it’s clear that Leonetti lacks the flair that it takes to make a great horror movie. What might be most offensive is how blatantly he rips off of Wan’s work. Obviously this is a spinoff of The Conjuring so some similarities are expected, but what Leonetti does is on a whole different level. From the design of the film’s primary creature to individual lines of dialogue, there’s hardly a scene here that doesn’t steal something from The Conjuring or Insidious.

The script by Gary Dauberman is purely perfunctory, crafting a predictable story that we’ve seen before and filling it with dull, uninteresting characters. Aside from the fact that they’re the main characters in the film, we’re never given much of a reason to care about John and Mia. Their performances certainly don’t help; Wallis brings a motherly warmth to her character, but isn’t given much else to do beyond looking frightened and Horton is incredibly bland and forgettable. The few side characters are even worse, popping up randomly without any rhyme or reason. Perhaps the most wasted potential lies in Oscar nominee Alfre Woodard; her character arrives too late into the film and the backstory that she’s given is so melodramatic that it borders on being laughable.

The film’s final scene is particularly offensive, ending in exactly the same way as The Conjuring. This final stinger just reiterates how uncreative and unoriginal of a film this is. It’s one thing to be inspired by a director’s past work, but it’s another thing to take what he does best and redo it in a completely uninteresting way. A sequence in a seemingly unmovable elevator is actually pretty interesting, but it’s the lone bright spot in a film that feels incredibly long, even with a relatively short 98 minute runtime. Everyone wants to see a great horror film when October rolls around, but Annabelle is definitely not that film.

Annabelle receives 1.5/4