Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Conjuring 2


   I really liked the first Conjuring. I'm a pretty big fan of James Wan. He and Leigh Whannell have cranked out some absolute horror hits. I was nuts about the first few Saw movies, and I'll leap to their defense at the drop of a hat, any hat. I also loved the first two Insidious movies (haven't seen the newest one yet), and despite the fact that nothing was actually conjured (a fact my friend loves to point out)... I seriously enjoyed The Conjuring as well. So how did this sequel fare with this fan? Pretty damn well to be honest. I think Wan and company have outdone themselves.

   Ghost stories, hauntings, demonic possession... it's stuff that's only been done a thousand times on film. I've seen a bunch of them and actively try to avoid the middle-of-the-road stuff. However, even the best the genre has to offer is typically bound by overly familiar trappings. Based on a true story or not, The Conjuring and The Conjuring 2 are decent films that unfortunately fall prey to the same pitfall. Luckily, the amount of skill behind the camera save them from being boring or even bland. There's some next level trickery going on in these movies, and while my friend would love to point out that nothing is specifically conjured in this movie either, I'd say it at least conjured up some genuine scares.

   Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson, and Vera Farmiga, respectively) travel to London to help a local family out with a pretty pesky poltergeist- or something. I mean, Lorraine basically says 'no more cases' in the beginning of the movie, which seems like a familiar trope, but Wilson and Farmiga have excellent chemistry and they sell the hell out of their roles (no pun intended), so you can forgive a little genre familiarity and dialog that seems like you've heard it a dozen times before. What I absolutely haven't heard before was Patrick Wilson's Elvis impression. Yes, step right up folks. Come for spooky nonsense, stay for Wilson's Elvis musical number. Fear not, it's much less ostentatious than it sounds.

   In point of fact, its one of the moments in the movie that really sells the whole thing. The Warrens are fun to watch. For all the running around, yelling, screaming, and latin-speaking that goes on, they feel like genuine characters. There's flavor to their personality and a bit of optimism, which goes a long way in such a bleak and oppressive genre. For once we've got protagonists who're actually pleasant people. Let the demons and the ghosts be the sullen and creepy ones. And, let me tell you, creepy doesn't even begin to adequately cover it. The Conjuring 2 brings no fewer than three scary entities to life in this tale. They're all exceptionally unsettling, but my favorite has got to be one called... "the crooked man".

   The movie taps into the kind of irrational fear you'd get from staring into the darkness for too long, or from wondering if someone/thing is behind you. All the goings-on in the movie take place in a run-down house, which has it's fair share of creaky floorboards, exposed piping, old rusty locks, squeaky hinges and the like, but most of all it has a creepy basement. What would movies like this be if basements weren't creepy? The icing on the cake is that it's a flooded basement. Oh ho ho... Again, none of this stuff is even remotely original, but there's expert timing and exceptional skill in how the scares and the atmosphere of the movie are manufactured.

   The Conjuring 2 is full of creepy and unsettling imagery and the whole movie is directed with cunning efficiency. The characters feel authentic,all the acting is really good, and the atmosphere is rich and spooky. What more could you want from another outing with the Warrens? For better or worse, The Conjuring 2 is just one big creaky, rotting, haunted house- pulling out all the stops to make us jump, squirm and try not to look. It does what it sets out to do, even if it's all built on a very very familiar foundation. I'd eagerly shell out for a third go-round with the demons and spirits from the Warrens' world.

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