For the most part, I tend to avoid horror movies, not because I’m scared of being scared, but because most horror movies come with the three-in-one expansion pack: shitty script, awful directing, garbage performances. And just as a cherry on top, these horror movies would also throw in HORRIBLE jump scares and FUCKING HORRIBLE false jump scares. Seriously, fuck horror movies. Heck, calling pieces of trash like Anabelle, Ouija and The Forest “movies” is a compliment in and of itself. Because these aren’t movies. These are donkey’s poop, that just happened to be caught on camera, and deserve to drown in a pool of Satan’s piss in the deepest, darkest depths of hell.
But thankfully, The Conjuring 2, is not one of those movies. To be fair, I never expected it to be. The Conjuring, also directed by James Wan, was one of the only awesome horror movies in the last five years, along with Crimson Peak and independent films The Babadook and It Follows. Add The Conjuring 2 to that list. Now, this isn’t to say that it’s a unique horror movie – it isn’t. Unlike The Babadook, Crimson Peak and It Follows, The Conjuring 2 contains all your usual cliché ingredients you’ve come to expect from this genre: dysfunctional family, ghost disturbs kid in dysfunctional family, parents don’t believe kid’s story, parents then believe kid’s story, enter ghostbusters to do their ghostbusting, the end.
Usually, this will annoy the crap out of me. When the end credits roll, I would spit in my friend’s drink, splash it on his face and leave angrily. Thank you friend, for dragging me to this shit show. But, along with scriptwriters the Hayes siblings, James Wan takes all these cliché tropes and adds purpose to it. This is your typical horror film, told in a not-so-typical manner. This is horror film ART!
The first one hour of this movie is spent on character development. We see 11-year-old Janet Hodgson (Madison Wolfe) smoking in school with her friend, when the principal catches them. We later learn that she was only pretending to smoke to fit in. We see stuttering little Billy Hodgson (Benjamin Haigh) getting picked on by bullies, before the rest of the Hodgson siblings stand up for him. Then we see the mom, Peggy Hodgson (Frances O’Connor), struggling to keep it together and put food on the table for her family, only for the washing machine to break down and make things worse. We later find out that the good for nothing husband/father ditched them to make babies with the skank down the road. But that’s not all, we then switch to the Warren family from the first movie (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) who have decided to put their ghostbusting days behind them.
To slowly watch and learn about these two seperate characters bit by bit, and then watch as their lives intertwine, thanks to possession and exorcism, is a pleasure. But this movie isn’t just about possession and exorcism, but also about reality versus fantasy. It is this aspect of the film, that I really enjoyed. As a non-believer myself, I find it funny when I come across “real life” stories about ghosts and possession. This movie discusses that aspect. What if the family is merely pulling a publicity stunt? Hey, a little TV time goes a long way. What if the girl isn’t actually possessed, but rather, suffering from a certain mental illness?
The performances in this movie are perfect. Just like in the first movie, Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga are brilliant as the ghostbusters. No surprise there. But here, they have to take it one step deeper. More than just mere ghostbusters, the movie really focuses on them as man and wife, and also as parents. These guys have unbelievable chemistry. There wasn’t a single moment in the film where I thought, “Meh, I don’t buy their love.” These are characters that I’ve grown attached to, so much so that I want to see where this couple is heading to next. Yes, I’m actually calling for a horror movie trilogy. Never thought you’d actually see the day this happens huh?
That aside, this whole movie hinged on the performance of Madison Wolfe. Without spoiling anything, I’ll say that had Madison Wolfe sucked, the whole movie will undoubtedly be an unbelievable, hilarious sack of testicles. Fortunately, Madison Wolfe NAILS IT. Holy shit! This is one heck of a performance by the kid actor. A long career ahead of her, this girl has.
The undisputed hero is of course James Wan. Every shot, every frame, crafted to perfection. The attention to detail is both surprising and spellbinding. Every single shot is artistic and purposeful. There is a scene somewhere at the beginning, where Wan and cinematographer Don Burgess use a tracking shot to give us a sense of the space of the small house the Hodgsons reside in. PERFECT. But perhaps the best scene in the movie comes not in the form of scares, but subtlety. As Patrick Wilson’s Ed plays the guitar while singing a rendition of Elvis’ classic, “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” the Hodgsons and Farmiga’s Lorraine watch and sing along. As you watch the smiling faces in this scene, eeriness slowly starts to creep behind you. You know this rare moment of happiness is hardly going to last.
I do have one gripe about this movie – the climax is a bit of a let-down. Not the climax in its entirety but the climax of the climax – the final showdown. It sorta makes you go, “Wait… That’s it? Well, okay then.” But considering the brilliance that came before that, it’s a forgivable offence.
There’s a big difference between shocking and scary. Most horror movies make you think that you’re scared, when you’re actually just shocked, due to silence followed by SUDDEN LOUD NOISES. That’s the same concept as your five-year-old, lollipop-sucking sister, sneaking up behind you and going “BOO!”. James Wan isn’t interested in kindergarten bullshit. Through its gripping storytelling, layered characters and thought-provoking themes, The Conjuring 2 makes you feel genuinely afraid.
All photos sourced from The Conjuring 2 Official Movie Site.