Saturday, October 8, 2016

Movie Reviews: The Conjuring 2

The Conjuring 2
directed by James Wan
This movie is not really all that different from the first installment but in this case that is a good thing. If you have reached a saturation point for gratuitous violence and sex in horror movies then this film series is for you. Wan continues to show that you can scare people and more importantly tell a good story without constant blood flow and barely covered heaving mammaries. Not that there's anything wrong with those things of course. Obviously though the previous sentence assumes that you are a horror film fan. If you aren't a horror fan this movie might leave you cold. Even so it's nice to see a horror movie get solid actors/actresses like Farmiga and Wilson to play leads. Their presence and competence give the film a certain gravitas that too often eludes works in this genre. What are the things that scare us most? Among the top three are probably death, being alone and darkness. You could argue that the second item in that list is just a subset of the first in many aspects. Even the most introverted among us still needs some human contact. That's why solitary confinement is a punishment. And death is the cessation of our existence and the ending of human contact-at least on this plane of existence. What could be scarier than that? And as animals whose primary sense is vision, we find it disconcerting to be in complete darkness. The primary method by which we experience information no longer works. Our sense of what's real or not can be shaky. The Conjuring 2 uses all of these primal fears to tell a frightening story of haunting and possession.  You're alone in the dark and someone who is dead is talking to you. Sound like fun?

The married couple Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) have reached an impasse in their work to document and combat hauntings and demonic possession. Lorraine is the psychic half of this couple. She sees and experiences things that Ed does not. And after the events of the first movie, not to mention the gruesome happenings at Amityville which she experienced from the view of the killer, Lorraine is burned out. She's worried that she or her husband will eventually make a mistake. And in their line of work they can't make mistakes. These feelings are intensified once she has a horrifying vision of Ed's demise. Something not of this world also seems to have followed them home and threatened their daughter. Not good. Lorraine thinks it's time to let someone else carry the banner in the fight against EVIL. Ed has to balance a fierce love for his wife against what he sees as the couple's duty to continue the struggle, no matter what it costs them. But as most married men will tell you, if Mama's not happy then no one is happy. Ed accedes to his wife's request. Meanwhile in London a young girl named Janet Hodgson (Madison Wolfe) is in a bad way. She's on the verge of falling in with a fast crowd at school. Her father abandoned her mother (Frances O'Connor) and her three siblings to take up with a younger woman. Janet's stuttering young brother is a target of school bullies. The family is on welfare. They live in a old house with plenty of infrastructure and appliance issues. And to make matters worse Janet has seemingly become the focus of something in their house, a ghost who insists that the Hodgsons are trespassing. At first no one believes Janet. But this entity is not exactly shy about making its presence known. Pretty soon everyone knows that Janet's house in general and Janet in particular is under attack by this spirit. The Catholic Church calls in the Warrens to see if this event is real. Even though he promised his wife to stop, Ed just can't turn down a request for aid, especially when he learns that the family is both impoverished and without a father at home. Lorraine will back his play but demands that this time they only act in an advisory capacity. They will be assisted by a rather hostile professional debunker Anita Gregory (Franka Potente) and a local supernatural expert eager for proof that something is out there afer death, Maurice Grosse (Simon McBurney).

The Conjuring 2 uses a lot of the same cliches and tricks that are common for these type of films-jump cuts, sudden silence, electronic devices that turn themselves on and off by themselves, creepy mirror shots, etc. You've seen all these things before. You've also seen them all mocked before. But when the director knows what he's doing and loves the genre, as Wan clearly does, these techniques remain very effective. There is something very quietly scary about a dog that is reacting to something you can't sense, a personal item that isn't where you left it the previous night, or a noise in the room when you are sure you're alone. This is a solid well made scary movie that should be on your list of films to watch, if you are a horror movie fan.
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