Tag Archive: The Shining

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


The Witch – Movie Review

I suppose fear is subjective. What one person finds truly frightening might seem tame to another. So when I watch horror films such as The Gallows or this year’s The Boy, I have to imagine that there are some people out there who find their lazy tropes effective. Conversely, I also have to imagine that there are people out there who won’t find The Witch scary. They might think it’s slow, boring and takes too long to get to any actual scares. They’re wrong. In his feature-length debut, Robert Eggers has made one of the best horror films in ages. It’s so impeccably crafted that he makes getting under your skin look easy.

Banished from the sanctuary of a local village, William (Ralph Ineson) and his family are forced to move out near the edge of a large forest in 1630s New England. One day while watching the baby, Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy) looks away for a brief second, which is just enough time for something sinister from the woods to abduct the infant. Believing the child to have been taken by a wolf, the family searches the area, but has no luck in finding it. William struggles to provide for his family without the support of a village, while his wife Katherine (Kate Dickie) continues to mourn the loss of their child and slowly loses her sanity. But something much more sinister than a wolf lies waiting in the forest and it might already be at their doorstep.

Some of the best horror films could stand alone as great films even if you removed their genre elements. If you take away the demon possession from The Exorcist it’s still a film about a mother trying to save her sick child. If you remove the ghosts from The Shining, it’s still about a man dealing with the responsibility of being a father and a writer, while also battling his alcohol addiction. This holds true with The Witch. Take away all of the spooky things that go bump in the night and you’re still left with an engaging tale of a family trying to survive on their own in the 17th century. William is clearly out of his element, lacking the basic survival skills that a man would be expected to have in order to provide for his family in those days. His crops are dying and he’s an even worse hunter than a farmer. Could his bad luck be the result of some supernatural being? Maybe. But even if it’s not, it’s still compelling to watch. As his wife slowly begins to lose her mind and the children dream of happier times back home, it becomes clear that dozens of families could have been put in similar situations back in this time period.

But that’s not to downplay the scare factor of this truly excellent horror picture. Not since Ben Wheatley’s Kill List has a genre film been able to instill such a feeling of dread in the viewer. The cinematography from Jarin Blaschke is uncomfortably eerie from the opening scene and he continues to create truly haunting images until the film’s final sequence. Eggers is perfectly content with taking his time, slowly building tension instead of constantly berating the viewer over the head with unnecessary scary-movie tropes. This is a crescendo of horror, one that starts off slowly, but continues to build and build at a steady pace. There’s a moment where it looks like the films is ending, but it doesn’t. The final moments that follow this false ending are so uniquely scary that it’s practically guaranteed to haunt audience members long after they leave the theater.

This is an undeniable slow burn and the difficult to follow dialogue of the actors may also turn off some more casual viewers, but fans of deliberately paced horror will find a lot to love here. It’s a film that touches on religion and paranoia in refreshingly unique ways and it feels like something lifted from a nightmare that you had as a child. Aided by an impressively creepy score from Mark Korven and solid performances from the small cast, Eggers has firmly left his mark on the horror genre. He may move on to bigger projects after this one, but another horror film from him would be more than welcome. I sift through a lot of terrible horror films every year, but it all seems worth it when I finally stumble upon a true gem, such as The Witch.

The Witch receives 4/4