For my reviews of the rest of The Conjuring films, click the following links:
I HATE HORROR MOVIES!!! There, got that out of my system. Yeah, big shock to a lot of people, but I absolutely can’t stand two very specific genres of film: comedy and horror. They have a tendency to follow one basic trope: stupid people making stupid decisions getting other stupid people killed. Therefore there’s nothing to invest in, no one to care about, so all you’re left with is a movie that has a cheap jump-scare fetish, and violence/gore porn. This is not what I want to see when I see a movie… at least, not without some exciting context (for example, EXPENDABLES and 300). This isn’t to say I’ve never enjoyed horror films. My favorite for the longest time was THE MIST (2007). Others include THE DESCENT (2005), PANDORUM (2009), and of course, ALIEN (1979). But that’s because these movies were very character driven and focused more on characters and uniqueness of storytelling.
Which brings us to the present day. I hadn’t yet seen THE CONJURING yet, but I was aware of its popularity among the horror circuit and always had a particular interest in it, but never made the time to actually watch it because… well, it’s a horror movie and never trust the general masses when it comes to horror movies. But I wasn’t about to see a sequel to something without seeing the original. I won’t spend too much time on what I thought about THE CONJURING, but I do want to give a drive-by review: a quick summary of what I thought.
THE CONJURING is now my favorite and, in my opinion, the best horror movie ever made. Not only did it freak the fuck out of me enough to keep my bedroom light dimmed and the window open for the night, but it had the best written characters of any horror film I’ve ever seen, Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga knock it out of the park with performances that I swear should have been Oscar-worthy, and is the first and only horror film to nearly make me cry at the end. Yeah, I think it’s that good. I’m with the general masses now.
Fast-forward to the next day, I found myself rather excited to see this sequel. I remember not being overly impressed with the trailer, and I did have a lingering fear that the sequel would suck by comparison to the first, but I kind of preferred to see this over WARCRAFT. So, with optimism, I got my ticket. How does it measure up? Here’s my honest opinion of THE CONJURING 2.
DISCLAIMER: From this point on, I will be discussing a great many spoilers that tie into the first movie and will be liberally revealing plot elements in this movie as well. If you have not yet seen the first film and don’t want to be spoiled, then I do not recommend reading any more of this review. If you have not seen this movie yet, then I recommend CTRL-F and type in the following code: TC2E. This will take you to the end of my review where spoilers will NOT be discussed and, of course, my honest rating.
Based on true events, set in 1977,. Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga respectively) continue to face against the educational folk of the world that try to dismiss their cases as hoaxes. To make matters even more complicated, Lorraine is having visions of Ed being killed. In fear of this coming to pass, Lorraine asks Ed to stop chasing evil spirits. But in London, England, single mother Peggy Hodgson (Frances O’Connor) and her four children, particularly her youngest daughter Janet (Madison Wolfe), starts to experience supernatural events, and eventually gets possessed by the malevolent entity. Calling for the help of the Warrens, the church sends the two to London to aid one more time.
Thank god! This movie was great and was not a disappointment… entirely. Er… yeah, I had a few issues with the movie. They’re probably closer to nitpicking, but still…
Alright, that opening scene was not promising. It opens on the Warrens in the Amityville house and Lorraine is enacting the events of a murder that took place there with the father taking a shotgun and murdering his entire family… except while in the mirrors that Lorraine passes by, we see the father in the reflection holding the shotgun, Lorraine herself isn’t holding anything. I know some people will probably say how creepy that scene was, but for me, I couldn’t help but feel like pointing out that she’s basically playing “invisible guns” like a kid. In short, I couldn’t take the scene seriously. It just looked silly.
But the absolute cardinal sin, major spoilers here in case you thought I was kidding with my disclaimer, is the resolution. Earlier in the movie, we’re introduced to the nun demon. It haunts Lorraine in her sleep and they have a shouting match in the Warren’s trophy room with her shouting, “Who are you?!” Toward the end, we learn that knowing the demon’s name gives the person power over it. We also learn that during that shouting match in the beginning, the demon was revealed to have told Lorraine its name. Um… why the fuck did it do that?? The Wicked Witch isn’t going to tell you to take it to Niagra Falls, a vampire isn’t going to ask you to push it into the sunshine, a werewolf isn’t going to hand a silver bullet, and a zombie isn’t going to hand you a shotgun and point to it’s head, so why in flying fuck did the nun demon tell Lorraine how to basically kill it?? And don’t give that, “Because she’s a clairvoyant and she read its mind” or whatever. No, very specifically, Lorraine said that the demon told her what its name was. Dumb-fuck demon was able to control the ghost of an old man to scare the living piss out of and possess a poor young girl, and it gave the only legit threat it could have possibly faced the very ammunition she’d need to kill it. Fuckin’ retarded.
There are some smaller issues that I had as well. Some of the scares were starting to get predictable. I mean, supernatural being in the reflection of the TV screen? M. Night Shyamalan did it in SIGNS. It’s really not as amazingly shocking as you might think. Not to mention certain throwaway characters really bugged me, like the scene with the news reporter in the house talking to Janet and eventually the poltergeist, and he’s still looking around like this is all a prank, even though there’s no way that a little girl could ever sound like that. I’m also not sure why the filmmakers chose to go the route of using special effects a lot. I mean, yeah, the crooked man is a creepy design, but… it is a touch distracting to me, especially since the first one used so little of it, if any at all.
But before any of you go on to thinking that I don’t like this movie, stop right there. I really like it. For every one thing the movie did wrong, it did two more things right or improved upon.
Once again, Wilson and Farmiga are world class performers in this and this is due to their characters getting seriously better written, which is an accomplishment in its own right since they were written so well in the first one. Their relationship is delved deeper into, and how it really affects Lorraine. Once again, she’s written to be so warm and approachable, yet despite having the closest thing to a “power” in the movie, making her slightly more threatening to a demon than Ed, yet she’s still so fragile and vulnerable. But Ed is no slacker in the emotional investment area. He cares very deeply for his wife and is willing to give up their occupation for her health and welfare. Just like the last film, their relationship is the heart of the story and, once again, almost makes me cry toward the end.
Oh, and this was something I’ve been waiting for in a horror movie for a long time. So in typical horror movies, someone occasionally calls the police. But of course in true cliche fashion, the ghosts don’t do anything spooky… for whatever reason. In this movie, this ghost isn’t afraid to do anything supernatural in front of them. At first, it looks like they’re thinking it’s a prank, but they do acknowledge that this is beyond their pay-grade. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie do this before. The authorities usually just think the haunted party is crazy or they brush it off as elaborate pranks. Here, they are clearly spooked and their involvement leads to something getting done, or the right kind of people are hearing about their plight. I sure as hell don’t see this too often and I’m damn appreciative that I have.
As for the scares themselves, just like in the first one, the creepy scenes are so hypnotizing, I would almost forget to cover an ear (yeah, I’m that guy) because I’m so engaged on what’s going to happen. For example, one of the most standout scenes for me is the first encounter that Ed has with the ghost possessing Janet, Bill Wilkins. The entire scene is kept focused on Ed while Janet is kept faded. You see the most subtle of transformations, it’d be pretty easy to miss, but the exchange is so creepy and so engaging that you can’t help but keep watching.
Which also brings me to the next topic of continuous good stuff: making the ghosts actual characters. That’s what every horror movie has missed up to this point this year (THE WITCH exempted because they weren’t haunted by anything really). The ghost has a past, a motive, and it makes for a compelling antagonist. Obviously, we learn later on that Bill himself is possessed by the demon, which makes him kind of sympathetic. A demon possessing a ghost? When the hell does that ever happen in these movies? While sure the demon isn’t much of a character, it’s just cool to see that this movie didn’t forget to give the supernatural entity a personality too.
Oh, and you can’t beat that Elvis singing scene.
Overall, I do think this movie took a couple steps back in some aspects over the first, so I have a firm belief that the first film is better put-together, but where they make improvements still make it one of the best horror movies I’ve ever seen, what with it’s beautifully crafted characters, pitch-perfect haunting atmosphere, it’s one of the greats. Honestly, even if you aren’t a horror movie fan, I do highly recommend watching these. Yes, they’re scary, I hate horror movies too, but they’re rich with character development and really connect with the audience for emotional investment. Obviously, I don’t recommend watching this if you haven’t seen the first film, but if you have, don’t miss out.
My honest rating for THE CONJURING 2: a strong 4/5