On this Scooby Doo esque outing we follow the Warrens to England to examine the Enfield Poltergeist. This is a well documented, true occurrence in which a family who is down on their luck experiences an extreme supernatural attack, prolonged with seemingly no known cause. The Warrens are flown in from America as agents of the Catholic church to examine the situation to make a determination as to whether the church should send in its strike team to intervene. Is it a hoax? What is causing the incidents that are tearing a family to ribbons? Can the Warrens save the day and solve the mystery? I assure you there is not old man Withers behind the mask in The Conjuring 2.
I enjoyed both the original Conjuring and the sequel equally, not one more than the other. That means that I am giving the sequel exceptionally high marks given my love for the first film.James Wan has his detractors in much the same way that Eli Roth has his detractors. These are folks that will hate everything he does, even if they haven't yet seen the movie. Beware of these people. Beware still these folks telling YOU not to see The Conjuring 2. If you did not enjoy the first movie, you probably won't enjoy the sequel. I have met folks who did not enjoy the original movie, and while I find that surprising, I suppose some people can't get into it. Both Conjurings have a similar way of telling their story, effects are executed in the same style, look and feel of both pictures are the same and even some of the plot points and the character development show commonality between movies. This is not a problem at all. This is a good sequel that follows a team we love on an adventure that thrills and chills and screams to high heaven of all the spookiness we fear (or maybe hope) really exists in the world. I almost think of these pictures as modern day, elongated serials that continue tales of the superheroes of the psychic world. Despite having common elements they are separately exceptional modern Horror films.
Housecleaning i.e. the shit that is obvious but bares mentioning or notes:
- The cast is strong. All performances are exceptional and believable while maintaining heart and a sense of fun (That's right... FUN). This movie has jokes. Enjoy them. You're allowed to laugh ya know.
- The effects are a balance of practical and CG. It's a healthy balance, and the effects work quite well. The CG is necessary. This is not a gory movie. It's not a bloodbath, but there is still ingenuity in the way that violent imagery is displayed on screen, creatively and not altogether obvious giving the film the same sense of style that made the original picture so successful.
- If you feared that James Wan's foray into the auto action genre was going to leave him worse for wear, forgetting how to create a Horror picture, consider your fears unnecessary.
- This is not a sequel to Annabelle. This story does not involve that movie or a continuation of that story line from the original Conjuring. No need to draw comparison to the movie Annabelle. I'm not sure if folks were even doing that, but hey, I'm always surprised.
- I'm always taken with how they make these movies look perfectly period. The set design, clothing and set dressing is really quite special allowing you to be completely immersed in a work of fiction that has a brilliant history behind it. This is the kind of thing that Ti West did so well in House of the Devil that made me love that movie. Wan just ups the game in that regard.
- There is what appears to be a nod toward the slender man's look in one of the manifestations of the supernatural force. It's absolutely perfect and got me each time. Whether it was influenced by the slender man or not, it looked friggin great.
- This ain't your typical possession movie. Don't expect that. Do not expect to have to deal with the same near parody "power of Christ compels you" storytelling you've come to see in wide release Horror as of late.
- The music is effective. Enjoy it especially toward the end of the picture. I think I've been spoiled on soundtracks for movies like It Follows and Starry Eyes lately. This one didn't quite have the impact I wanted.
- Yes, we get a glimpse of Amityville in this one. Yes it is fucking awesome. Remember, the house is back on the market kiddies.
- One the main manifestations of the supernatural force is a creepy nun. This reminded me of some Italian Horror from the late 70's, early 80's. It absolutely got me. Over and over again. while it initially seemed like a common modern Horror image it quickly evolved into something that almost resembled Mr. Barlow from Hooper Salem's Lot.. but in a habit.
- Wilson goofs on Elvis as if he was Andy Kaufman. It is special and adds that comic relief that is a must in Horror while providing a heartwarming moment. There are quite a few tender moments. They all made me mooshy.
- We had a good sized crowd for a 10 o'clock showing. Everyone jumped and laughed at themselves. No applause at the end. I kind of wanted applause.
A friend mentioned that one criticism was that this movie is all jump scares and no substance. THIS needs to be addressed. There is nothing wrong with the use of a jump scare or multiple jump scares in a Horror movie. We all know what a jump scare is. It's the scare where something is suddenly on screen or moves in forward direction toward the audience often accompanied by a loud noise that causes the audience to jump. Horror is built on this. Not all Horror movies have these types of scares, but there's an effective way to use this tactic, and then there's the shitty use of it that involves the dreaded cat behind the curtain. If the jump scare is used properly it will come out of a plot contextualized moment using the villain to scare the audience providing the cardio stimulating POP. Using constant faux jump scares or the repeated use of cats or other non-plot/villain based jump scares is taxing and ruins movies. It's not wrong to have one or two fake moments of dread. These can allow the audience to be put off guard to allow them to be "had" at the appropriate moment. A movie that repeatedly uses scares that come from a scary villain or ghost is appropriate especially when the villain is hidden in plain view or when the lighting is low.
That being said, The Conjuring 2 has a healthy number of appropriate jump scares, but it also contains a general sense of dread and a well developed eerie mood that that perpetuates a feeling of unease and terror in the audience throughout the picture. The jump scares used in the movie are pure James Wan. He's shown us time and time again that he knows how to make an auditorium leave their seats and float, gasping and squealing like a tea kettle. He uses the same tactics he used in Insidious and the original Conjuring. He uses them in unique ways, and also a few new tricks up his sleeve. To say that this picture is all jump scares and no substance suggests the viewer didn't pay attention to the movie which is filled with some beautiful effects and claustrophobic moments, should remove their head from their cellphone to see what is actually on the screen or stop going to see James Wan movies because most likely, the viewer simply does not like Wan's brand of Horror. There's more here. Am I getting a little snooty? Yep. You don't have to like the movie. I really don't care if you do, but you can't accuse this movie of following a low budget porno format in which the movie shows some dialogue and then a jump scare, dialogue, jump scare... repeat (as bad porn might follow the dialogue/fuck fest/dialogue/fuck fest pattern). That is an inaccurate representation of what is on screen.
I can't wait for you to see this movie and enjoy it. It will do well at the box office, and I hope it outdoes the original Conjuring because a third movie in the cycle (as long as it involves Wan) will be a truly special story. The Warrens have got plenty mileage in them for a series of pictures; here's to a long line of Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson creating special Horror moments while showing us all how to love each other a bit more.
Support some excellent Horror, keep America strong, watch Horror movies especially this one this week and for the weekends to come. I think I'd like to watch this one a second time on the big screen, and I hope to podcast this one soon. When Jeff Konopka and I podcasted the original on Dead Air, we both had crazy shit happen that scared the piss out of us.
In Theater now.