Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Review - The Conjuring 2

The Conjuring 2 is a technically competent but otherwise underwhelming sequel. The first film was a brilliantly crafted love letter to 1970s horror which perfectly walked the line between homage and pastiche while adding a few cinematic innovations of its own. The second obviously has similar intent - even opening with an interior shot of the famously odd windows at 112 Ocean Avenue, Amityville - but while Wan still knows how to shoot a great horror movie, he's apparently forgotten how to write one. All innovation is gone, and the film's attempt at homage is undermined by the countless tropes borrowed from other recent horror films. The storyline is plodding and nonsensical - I'd anticipated a twist which I'm convinced would have made for a significantly more satisfying resolution, and the fact that it's heavily foreshadowed by earlier events in the film makes me suspect that the original ending was sabotaged by studio-driven last minute edits, because they instead go with a Diabolus Ex Machina which tries to raise the stakes by throwing dramatic CGI at the screen but otherwise fails to bear any relevant connection to the rest of the story, notwithstanding Lorraine's "visions" earlier in the film which equally feel like last-minute additions.

The film generally feels very half-hearted in everything it sets out to accomplish. It wants us to care about the Warrens, so it throws out some superficially mushy dialogue about how they got together and has Ed gaze into Lorraine's eyes while he sings Elvis to some children, while completely failing to allow them to behave in any way like real human beings. Neither of them seem to show any particularly extraordinary expertise when it comes to dealing with the supernatural, either - they spend a lot of time rattling futilely at locked doors and Lorraine has a remarkable tendency to break down into a screamy teary mess anytime she sees something scary, not a particularly desirable quality in a paranormal investigator. The film also makes numerous nods towards the angst and desperation of the Thatcher-era, but just doesn't really.. do anything with it. "Hey look, these characters' struggles exist within a broader social context" - is that going to be relevant to the story in any way, directly or indirectly, literally or metaphorically? Hell no! But gosh, isn't it scary when the ghost forces the little girl to watch Maggie's speech on TV.

It's frustrating, because somewhere during the process of writing and editing this thing I'm sure there was a really good film. That's not the film they released, though. As it is, it's entertaining, and succeeds at being scary, because Wan's well and truly mastered the stock tricks of the genre at this point. It's a shame it can't do more to justify its existence, though, because there are a lot of superficially entertaining scary movies out there, and we know Wan can do much better. I'll give this one a 6/10.

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