So many R-Rated entries. What made me think otherwise? Do I think so little of the next generation that I simply have to assume that all of their horror movies have been nerfed? I also really question what makes a horror movie rated what it is? Is it the intended audience? Do adults want to see R-rated movies and do teens want to see PG-13 movies? That can't be right.
DIRECTOR: James Wan
It's almost time to do a podcast on these films and I have to review them soon. I'm really falling behind on my reviews. Perhaps I'm watching too many movies and I can't possibly keep up with the reviews in a timely manner, but we'll see how the quality of this review comes out.
I have to say that I've been overall impressed with this franchise. There was something within me that really was hesitant about giving these movies their proper due, but I think I was wrong about that in the long run. Between The Conjuring, Annabelle, and The Conjuring 2, I got a good deal of scares. I was less than impressed by Annabelle: Creation, but I shouldn't talk about that until I actually get there. This is one of those rare horror sequels that mostly gets everything right about what made the first movie great without overtly ripping off the first film. There is a bit of tonal safeness going on when it comes to The Conjuring 2 that I wish could be washed away, but I also get that the movie really has to be a follow up to the first film and that would have been a risky move to completely stray from the original format. Instead, James Wan moved the story to England. Admittedly, that was not entirely his call because of the fame of the "real case." (If you didn't read my review of The Conjuring, you must know that I'm extremely skeptical about the validity of these original stories.) I read the Wikipedia article on the incident portrayed in The Conjuring 2 and this involvement is even more dubious than the first movie. Again, this is Wikipedia, but apparently the Warrens had almost nothing to do with this case outside of being told to shove off. But the ghost story is apparently a pretty famous ghost story and I'm sure the producers of the franchise thought it would be a good idea to change the setting to England. I agree, but there is something very Americana about a good ghost story set in America. The England thing, frankly, caught me a little off guard. It was even weirder with the type of house that the film focused on. This was a suburban flat as opposed to the very creepy house of the first film. I liked that, in a way. I complained mostly in my review for the first movie that the haunting element was a bit on the nose with the aesthetic choices, but this movie kind of steers away from it. It's the beats that really hit the same though.
It is odd to see a series of films intentionally try to build a cinematic universe. This seems to be a common thread among many of recent big budget reviews. It seems like every production house wants to say that they have what Marvel has and The Conjuring 2 is pretty shameless about the whole thing. The first movie introduced Annabelle, who barely has a role in the first movie except for the overt tease that she is somehow terrifying. That was then followed up with the film Annabelle, which slightly teased the Warrens. We get that. The nun (who actually ends up being one of the main villains in this movie) is intentionally underdeveloped just so she can have her own film. She's teased again in Annabelle: Creation, possibly more shamelessly than the others. I really like cinematic universes when they happen organically. But these movies tend to be really shoehorning them in. I can't help but think of the first Iron Man film with Sam Jackson just teasing the word "Avengers". That was so minor and blew up audiences everywhere. But much of these movies are now devoted to trying to tease future films in the franchise. I know that horror fans are pretty intense, but I also feel that most audiences wouldn't consider themselves necessarily fans of The Conjuring universe, despite the fact that they may actually enjoy the films quite a bit. Does anybody lose their minds when one of these moments is teased? The nun is very creepy, but she should have been able to be more developed in a two-hour-and-fifteen-minute movie. There's very little to this character outside of the look of her being terrifying. There also is a gravitas that is attached to her that seems somewhat unearned. SPOILER: Foreshadowing a character's death and now paying it off seems silly and I don't know if the Nun deserves to have that title of "nemesis" when she really hadn't earned it. One thing about a nemesis, or a cinematic universe for that matter, is that there needs to be a slow build up to give the level of gravitas needed to allow for these desperate moments. The Conjuring movies kind of do things backwards. They promise that a character will be worth the events of the current story and then use prequels to prove that point. I think Age of Ultron had the same problem. By giving moments significance before actually earning them is spending the audience's goodwill like credit. I don't necessarily want to wait two years to find out what The Nun is all about. Yes, she's scary and effectively so, but I have no idea what her rules are, therefore her defeat is anticlimactic.
This movie is slightly more disjointed than its predecessor. The very format of these movies is odd. Considering that the Warrens are the protagonists, it is a bit problematic having the characters insert themselves into the story. As part of that, one of the major beats from the first film is repeated. The Warrens have a hard time protecting each other from danger. They are always on the verge on avoiding the narrative completely, which is absurd considering that they are the protagonists. The audience is automatically misled from what will clearly be the A-plot. This isn't that big a deal in the first film, a significantly shorter story. But keeping the Warrens out of the story for as long as they are in this movie seems somewhat painful. Also, making the Warrens the lynch pins of the narrative is weird when it comes to evoking sympathy for the actual victims of the story. The family should be the key focal point. They are the ones being haunted, but it is clear that the story won't actually really begin until the Warrens are somehow involved.
While the Nun and the old man really work as antagonists, The Conjuring 2 finally craps out when it shows one of its villains. I've complimented this franchise for breaking the rules about showing the creepy villains, mainly because many visuals can't match the terror that is in our imagination. But The Conjuring 2 kind of messed up with the look of The Crooked Man. The Crooked Man is terribly CG. I've preached how mostly CG villains aren't scary. The build up to the Crooked Man is very impressive, but the actual payoff just looks silly. Add to that the angle that the man is shot in, it just adds to the goofiness. Traditionally, low to high angle shots give the subject a position of power, but it also reveals many of the glaring errors when it came to the digital effects in the film. There is one scene where the Crooked Man bursts through the front door and, considering that the movie has the look a 1970's horror movie, the movie instantly becomes this low budget music video. It really doesn't work.
I know it sounds like I'm griping pretty hard, but the movie is pretty entertaining. I don't think it has the same legs as the first film. I would still watch a sequel to this franchise, but there's some wear and tear that need to be addressed before that happens.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.