I’m not a big horror movie buff. The first horror movie I saw in the theatres was The Gallows, which came out last year. However, I’ve recently become intrigued by them. Having seen horror movies at home on my couch, I was really wondering why I was flinching and covering my eyes and ears when I knew none of it was real. It seemed illogical, and so lately I’ve taken to going to the theatre and subjugating myself to horror movies.
Let me tell you: it’s a quaint experience sitting in a packed house for a horror movie. There’s this tribalness to it, like we’re all huddled together against something lurking in the dark. Seeing (and hearing) other people who are more freaked out than you also makes it a bit better. If you’ve never gone to a theatre to watch a horror movie, I urge you to try it at least once. It’s a fun and interesting experience, especially for a date or something (unless, you know, you’re a male and a wuss).
Anyway, The Conjuring 2 is directed by horror legend James Wan, his most popular achievement being the original Saw movie. The story centres around young Janet Hodgson and her ordeal with a demon trying to take over her body and soul. Demon’s just have no sense of personal space. This review will primarily talk about the movie in terms of scare factor and actor performance. Beware of spoilers.
This movie is scary, and that’s the important thing. It wasn’t trying to be scary during every minute of the film, but when it wanted to be, it was downright unsettling and creepy, which is what I love. Horror and comedy are very closely related, and demonic possession is the most ridiculous premise for a horror movie in my opinion, but the first half of this film feels more like a haunted house/ghost story. The minor twist of why the house is doing what it does was very nice also.
But what worked most for me was the effort that the film put into being different. Take the following two scenes, for example. In the one that didn’t work, a little boy’s firetruck keeps rolling out of a dark play tent, culminating in a scary voice yelling at the kid. The second scene, which was fantastic, showed one of our protagonists watching as a shadow stalked along the wall and into a portrait of itself, causing grotesque hands to emerge from the back of the painting and eventually bringing it to life. The first scene doesn’t work because it’s generic. The point of that scene was to show the house is being occupied by malevolent spirits, which we already knew, and object-manipulation is pretty mild. The second scene works because we don’t know what to expect. Why is the apparition suddenly taking a physical form? What’s going to happen when the shadow reaches the painting? There was suspense, helped immensely by the lighting and camera angle which suggested way more to the audience than words or sound could ever imply.
The actors delivered great performances all throughout, with is noteworthy since horror movies don’t usually ask much from them besides running and screaming. Madison Wolfe in particular did a fantastic job portraying the principal victim of this story. Usually horror movies are terrible at getting us to sympathize with their main characters, but it’s quite easy and natural to feel sorry for Janet and her family. This is a combination of the decent plot and Wolfe’s performance.
The bad part about The Conjuring 2 is the fact that it’s a movie about possession. Given possession’s history, I can understand why religious people are more susceptible to these type of films, but I’m not religious, and so I can only view possession as it really is: an egregious misdiagnosis. That’s why I can’t take possession movies seriously. It doesn’t help that possession is usually portrayed in a goofy manner. People walking like spiders and flinging about the room just looks plain silly.
I know I said this film was scary, but for me that really applies to any scene that wasn’t about the possessing. When The Conjuring 2 was a haunted house movie, I loved it; but when it turned into a possession movie, it became a comedy.
Another thing that seemed strange was the fact that no one actually dies in this movie (except a family in the beginning but that has no bearing on the main plot). I was waiting for one of the kids to die, for the demon to actually matter in some way, but that never ended up happening. Ultimately, the antagonist of this film was about as successful as your average Scooby-doo villain.
The Attention to Detail
Despite my distaste for possession films, I can still appreciate what The Conjuring 2 accomplished. It is easy to tell that a lot of love and care went into its production, which is what makes a great and respectable film.
There are jump-scares throughout, but there are also great moments of suspense, which is always a magnificent experience for movie-goers, horror or otherwise. Sound design also played a huge role in the scare factor. In the theatre, each creaking floorboard, pounding footstep, and demonic whisper was crystal clear, allowing for natural immersion and a lot of short but high-anxiety scenes.
It is these things that separates A-list movies from the rest, both in and outside of the horror genre, and it is TLC that has once again elevated one of Wan’s movies over and above the average horror flick.
Watch it! I’ll be an advocate for good horror movies from now on, because we all know just how rare a good horror movie really is. I woke up once in the middle of the night, actually, after watching this movie, and I wondered if I was bothered by The Conjuring 2. I decided that I wasn’t and promptly went back to sleep.
Nonetheless, this is a great movie that says “Boo!” in some pretty nifty ways. The story is decent, and even if you’re not a fan of possession, you will most definitely appreciate it as a horror film.
This has been a gamobo review.