The Conjuring and The Conjuring 2
Directed by James Wan
Written by Chad and Carey Hayes, David Leslie Johnson
Starting: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson.
Horror is not a genre that I usually enjoy. Due to recent years’ horrific depiction of the horror genre, all of the useless jump scares, underdeveloped stories, boring characters; I’ve only become disillusioned with it. But my friends are huge fans of this type of film, and I am usually dragged to see them, so it was a surprise for them when I willingly told them we should see this movie. The only reason I did that is because I kept hearing good reviews from Chris Stuckman, one of my favourite reviewers, and he described the franchise in a way that made the movie seem much more than loud noises and useless scares. He was right. My faith in the genre has been somehow restored.
Both movies are centered around Ed and Lorraine Warren, a husband-wife duo of demo-nologists who take on cases to see if people, things, and places are actually being hunted or of it is a farce, or simply the fault of a leaking pipe. When they have gathered actual evidence, the Catholic Church is contacted for them to do an exorcism, and that is the end of it. The first movie follows the Perron family, which is being haunted in the home they’ve recently moved in by various ghosts, including the spirit of a witch; while the second film follows the case of two school-girls in England who are either possessed, experiencing poltergeist, or inhabited by a demon. It was entertaining to see that this couple does not only investigate cases that turn out to be “true,” but they simply investigate what is given to them, and it is their job to prove if it is an actual event, a hoax, or tricks of the mind. This very simple detail gives them credibility in the eyes of the viewer, the audience is not constantly skeptical of the protagonists, but awaiting a good fright.
The first thing I noticed when watching the movies was how beautiful everything looked. I did not look at the scary lady, the creepy child, or the leathery feet, (well maybe a bit ) but I looked at the surroundings, the house, all I could see in the background. When a movie is as scary as it is beautiful, I know it has done its job.
Aside from the wonderful cinematography, it was refreshing to have a lot of the scary things be made with makeup and real props rather than all CGI. During the first movie, the ghosts were real people with makeup, rather than something computer animated on a green screen. It made the monster more realistic, it appeared terrifying, and that held a lot of value when paired with the sounds. However in the second movie, there was one particular character which was obviously CGI, and not done well, at all. It looked extremely fake, and it added nothing to the plot, except for the one creepy scene it had that could have been cut out. In this is where the second film falls short in comparison.
I quite appreciated that there were no unnecessary scares. Instead of hearing a loud noise whenever something happened on screen after a couple seconds of silence (which turned out to be a random thing instead of what we were meant to be scared of in recent “horror” films) ; we were given a couple seconds to process that we were about to be frighted. This effect gave us time to see the thing we are suppose to be horrified of, which in turn, caused us to be truly fearful. It was not a loud sound that caused us to jump on our seats, but a thing out of place, a creepy face, or someone who is not meant to be there.
The fault in both films falls on the plot of the stories. Both movies had average premises, which no matter how well-executed, were still sort of mediocre. I understand they are based on “true events” of the lives of actual people, but they were indistinguishable when it comes to good setup.
The acting in this movie, for the most part, was very good. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farminga, in both movies, gave realistic performances of people in love hunting demons. They had chemistry, something that some horror films have recently lacked. Aside from the protagonist, the kids were very good actors, particularly in the second movie. We are often shown robotic performances by some kids in certain films, that simply do not make us feel for them nor believe them, but in here they gave an astounding performance. I see a bright future for the main child actress in the second movie. Most of the other performances were quite at par, the issue came from some of the characters.
While some of the characters had interesting back stories and developing characteristics, some really seemed like every single other cardboard image that is used when people are too lazy to come up with anything interesting. The father in the first movie, some of the siblings in both films, the paranormal investigator in the second one, were simply there to be there and nothing more, their personality was boorish, and they mostly felt, useless. Hopefully, this did not overshadow all the other interesting characters.
James Wan has surprised me with his recent films, and I will wait for the third installment (which I hope gets developed and Wan works in). Until then, I will go and see if I can find other films as good as this one, with my faith in the horror genre not completely obliterated. yet, these movies are not for everyone, as I’ve heard several complaints over it being not as scary as people expected, and even as I disagree, I understand why certain audiences would not love the franchise as much. Give it a go nonetheless, it will give you faith in humanity after the horribleness of Anabelle, Ouija, The Roomate, and the later Paranormal Activity films (and many more that are truly abhorrent).