After introducing the twisted world of the Insidious series, director James Wan delivered an even more frightening experience with the two The Conjuring movies.
(USA 2013, director: James Wan)
Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren try to help the Perron family that is haunted by a malevolent presence in their farmhouse.
Haunted house and demonic possession movies have been around for ages, but they haven’t been this effective for a while. The reason isn’t only that everything is based on the original investigators’ recordings and photos, but because the first movie is simply perfect cinema magic. While it might not tell anything original in the haunted house/people genre, the way how camera angles and sound are used makes the audience as clueless and frightened as the characters who experience the events. One literally feels for the family and will be emotionally drained at the end.
It’s difficult to describe why the movie is that terrifying. Maybe it’s the perfect pacing that doesn’t suffer from unnecessary babbling of characters one doesn’t care about (as in Insidious: Part 3), maybe it’s because one feels as if a noose is slowly tightened around one’s neck and the final exorcism part comes like a sledgehammer into one’s stomach. Or maybe it’s because of outstanding, realistic performances of every actor and actress involved. In the end it doesn’t really matter, because this is simply a masterpiece in effective horror that doesn’t lose any of its amazing atmosphere after repeated viewing, something that can only be said about very few truly scary movies.
The Conjuring 2
(USA 2016, director: James Wan)
Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren try help the Hodgson family in London, as the mother believes her daughter is possessed by the spirit of an old man who doesn’t want them to stay in his house, while a demonic nun is out for the Warrens as well.
The first movie set a high standard for paranormal terror, and even if there are now two entities that have some very frightening appearances, especially when the old man imitates the English nursery rhyme “There was a crooked man”, the sequel isn’t quite as good. It doesn’t have to do with familiarity, but with an overblown plot that tries too hard to be full of twists. The targeted family is also another problem, as too much time is spent on their lives until the terror really sets in. Switching between the evil nun and old man scenario, between USA and UK before the Warrens actually arrive makes the audience lose focus and therefore empathy.
While this sounds all negative, it doesn’t mean that it’s a less frightening movie, as there are quite a few terrifying scenes, e.g. when the old man speaks out of the young daughter while the Warrens take their eyes away from her and one sees how her out-of-focus shape transforms into the old man’s. It again proves that Wan knows how to work with cameras, not showing but hinting at the horror. Of course the ending is another crescendo of terror with a lot of noise and screaming, but it’s not as emotional as in the original movie. For its scare-jumps and disturbing scenes alone, this is definitely a worthy addition to the horror genre, but one shouldn’t expect the same tight script and atmosphere as before, even if it has more twists and turns to keep one’s attention for most of the running time.
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