Monday, June 13, 2016

The Conjuring 2

Janet, a regular little girl, is suddenly plagued with hearing voices and sounds at night. As time goes on, the incidences get more and more violent with she and her sister being thrown around the room. Eventually, the ghost speaks through her and her family feels unsafe staying in the house. Leaving isn't an option since it follows them. First they go to the police and then the church, who employs the help of famous ghost hunters Ed and Lorraine Warren. Unfortunately, they have already been targeted by an evil force.

I hated the first Conjuring movie but I held hope that the sequel would be better. The Conjuring 2 is a mediocre horror film, but miles better than its predecessor. It features a formulaic haunted house/possession horror film. The real strength of the film is in the character building and the acting. I felt for Janet and her family. Her mom is a single parent struggling to provide for her children with no other support other than a neighbor. These supernatural events put great strain on an already stressed family and it was heartbreaking to watch. Ed and Lorraine Warren have a family of their own built on faith and love. The faith part is a bit in your face and obnoxious, but their love is apparent because of the skill and chemistry between Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson. They care absolutely for each other and the people they help. Both of these family dynamics are what made the film at all entertaining.

Unfortunately, quite a few things didn't work for me. First and foremost, I have a problem providing exploitative charlatans like the Warrens any sort of positive publicity. I find them morally reprehensible. Their portrayal in the film is well acted, but flatly perfect and boring. Their faith is portrayed hamhandedly instead of as an organic part of their character. The obvious notion that they and the Enfield poltergeist could be fake is brought up in passing, but discredited quickly by having the accusers not be as charismatic or nice as the couple. The writer could have at least given the Warren's credible argument at least for Amityville, but it amounted to "you weren't there" and namecalling. It may not be as entertaining, but I'd like someone to make a movie where they are shown as the frauds they are in reality rather than the perfect ghostbusting couple they are in this film.

The story doesn't bring anything new or interesting. It stays securely in the established tropes of the possession and haunted house genres. The horror aspects are lacking, mostly relying on numerous (I counted 13) jump scares without building up any actual atmosphere or suspense. These cheap scares give the audience an involuntary jolt, which is fine used sparingly with atmosphere or tension. After a few, they lose effectiveness and show that the filmmakers aren't interested in constructing an effective film. The film also relies a lot on CGI creatures and actors with brightly colored contact lenses. Both come off as cheesy and brought me out of the film. The demon nun creature in particular came off as Marilyn Manson in a nun outfit rather than a blasphemous demon. A particular scene with her and a painting started out as a bit creepy and then descended into goofiness. The Crooked Man creature is well designed, but not well created or used. Showing too much of the monsters shows all of their flaws, Some scenes go on way too long and an odd Elvis moment made the pacing drag. The ending is super sappy and completely out of character.

The Conjuring 2 is not quite as bad as the first, but the construction of the film is a mess. The characters are well acted and sympathetic, but the Warrens come off as too perfect. The horror elements had potential, but came off as cheesy and cheap. James Wan had a couple of good films at the beginning of his career. Now, he continues to pump out underwhelming, forgettable films filled with jump scares. I'm happy that horror is thriving as it dominated the box office opening weekend. I just wish that original films that play with tropes and have original ideas were in theaters rather than the same formulaic ones over and over again,

My rating: 2/5 fishmuffins

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