The Conjuring 2

First off, yes, it is better than Annabelle, although for it to be worse than Annabelle it would have to be basically a group of people shining torches and going “woo” in the dark (and Most Haunted have already got that covered). It contains some good scares, it’s beautifully directed and it has child actors who are actually good.

More of which later

I preferred this to the first one too, which was one of the most highly regarded horror films of the last few years. Does this mean it’s better? I have no idea, I’m aware of how strong personal bias can be, and I saw the first one in a house, whereas this one I saw in cinema, and horror is a genre made for cinema. Not just for the darkness and the volume, but also because of instant audience feedback, much like laughing, when you hear other people be scared it sets the tone and makes you more scared. And of course you’re forced to pay attention to it, you can’t sit there checking your phone (well, you can, but if you do, you’re a c*nt).


I also worry part of me preferring this is because it’s set in England, and as such it’s nice to see all the little nods and references. Sadly this usually means there’s one other risk; Americans attempting English accents. Luckily they cast an actual English actress as the mother, oddly enough though some of the kids aren’t English, one’s American and one’s Australian. But aside from a few minor vocal discrepancies, it’s very hard to notice and you could easily believe they’re English. Whilst we’re on the subject; when did actress’s in horror films get so good? It’s supposed to be a cliche that if you’re on a film set surrounded by people who can’t act you’re either on a porn or a horror. Yet with Maika Monroe in It Follows, and now Madison Wolfe in this, studios will no longer be able to get away with dud casting. I cannot overestimate how strong Madison Wolfe’s performance is in this, giving a performance well beyond her 13 years, bringing to mind Linda Blair in The Exorcist. She’s been in other films before but usually as a “main character when she was younger”, but on this the entire film is dependent on her. If you don’t buy her character and her fear, then the film is dead quicker than one of Henry VIII’s wives.

The other performances? Well they’re okay, Vera Farmiga seems to be slightly phoning it in as Lorraine Warren this time, Patrick Wilson doesn’t have much to do but furrow his brow, Lauren Esposito does well with what she’s given but reminds me too much of someone I know for that not to be a distraction. Make no mistake though, this is definitely Wolfe’s film and I’m looking forward to see where her career goes from here, she’s definitely got potential. Special mention must also go to the make-up team, who do a fantastic job on the characters, making you question whether they’re possessed or just really exhausted, the pale faces the red eyes really help sell the fear contained within the film. Praise must also go to James Wan, who’s directorial style makes me really excited about Aquaman (which is something I never thought I’d say). There’s a fantastic shot near the end of one of the children standing near an open window in the rain and it just looks perfect, it’s like a poster shot it’s so sublime.

Very similar to this, but better

Now, onto the bad, again, the story is a little weak. It repeats the same story beats as a lot of horror films as such you’re never really invested in it and you don’t lose yourself in the moment, and it all got a bit silly towards the end. There’s a reveal at the end (which I won’t spoil for you) which they seem to use as an excuse to throw in different “scary” images and characters, but not really that effectively, it’s too short to stick with you, but so long that you get bored with it, almost like they were trying to get as many iconic characters invented for potential spin offs as they could. Secondly, the scares. Now, this film does have some great scares, but they won’t stick with you, some of them are almost literally a guy sneaking up behind you and saying “boo”, they’re instant scares. They make you jump and provide good reaction shots for people to use in publicity, but once you leave the cinema all fear is over. You don’t see the world differently like you did after It Follows, you’re not left changed by the experience, every scare takes place in the moment. As such it’s destined to be one of those films teenagers watch in groups and sit in the dark (a genre I shall now deem; “frat house horror” as that seems to be the most popular place to watch horror movies according to American TV and films). Basically, it’s the feature length equivalent of one of those jump scare videos your asshole friend sends you, only over two hours long. Oh, that’s another point, this film’s over two hours long (two and a half if include trailers). That’s way, way WAY too long for it to keep momentum. The longer a film, the more chance someone will have to leave to go piss, which in a cinema completely breaks all immersion.

So to sum up;

If you like horror (or are interested in film-making) then see this film, but it won’t change your mind if you don’t like the genre.

If You Liked This:

Watch: The Conjuring, obvious really. Now you don’t need to have seen that film to understand the sequel as it does a pretty good job of telling you about the characters without it seeming like it’s repeating itself.

Read: About the Enfield Poltergeist, the situation which this film is based on.

The 5 Most Annoying Trends In Horror Movies

Last week I went to see the forgettable The Forest when it occurred to me, there’s been no genre with as high a disappointment ratio as horror. In the last two years (or since I started getting a cineworld card), I’ve only seen two very good horror films: The Babadook and It Follows. It’s probably the only genre with more films I’ve disliked (Annabelle, The Gallows, Unfriended) than liked. I’ve figured out that I dislike most of the films for the same reasons, so I looked at those reasons and list them here.

1. Native Americans/Japan

So what’s the cause for this demon that’s haunting everybody? Well, you just need to go for either Native-American or Japanese. The Japanese one is simply the fear of the unknown, but it’s not really unknown anymore. This isn’t the 70’s anymore, we’re aware of Japan etc and we’re no longer ignorant of their culture. So it’s weird that we do seem that a lot of modern horror films just go “because Japan has ghosts” as an acceptable answer. But that’s nowhere near as one that’s almost become cliche: Native Americans. This is a lot simpler, it’s to make do for the guilt of the genocide that took place hundreds of years ago, so we imply that they were a noble people with power beyond our grasp,bestowing upon them a knowledge and power that makes us feel okay with almost wiping them out. There’s not many modern American horror things in real life, there’s not many countrywide urban legends and rituals, so using Native Americans or the culture of the Japanese is just lazy shorthand.

2. Soundtracks.

Quick, what do the following have in common: The Exorcist, Halloween, Psycho? Well, they’re all horrors which have stood the test of time. But try to remember something about this films, odds are you just had the soundtrack to one of them in your head. Which makes me feel sad that this sort of thing doesn’t happen anymore, It Follows is the only horror with a really good original soundtrack I’ve seen in seemingly forever. Most films just go with filling their soundtrack with rock music so they can make more money from the soundtrack. The trouble with this is that familiarity makes you feel safe, so when you’re watching a film and you’re sitting there and you recognise the music then you automatically get taken out of the film, you’re no longer scared. It’s like my nan used to say: Its impossible to be scared whilst listening to Creed. The only exception is if the characters themselves are listening to music, then you’re allowed to have familiarity. But if you’re having a horror chase scene to a song by P.O.D, then I won’t be scared, I’ll be wondering why the hell you chose that song. Please note: I know that Tubular Bells is a Mike Oldfield song that does exist outside of The Exorcist, but there is a difference between the way that the film used that, and the way that modern films use music.

3. Lack Of Originality

Yes, I know there’s been a Point Break remake this year, and there will soon be a Ghostbusters one. But no film genre is as incestuous and mastubatory as horror. Look, I know why this happens. It can be hard to market horror, it can be difficult to make people feel scared in a 30 second advert. So it’s tempting to just do a familiar concept so that people think “oh, that’s another film about killer t-shirts strangling people, I love them!” and go to see it. Companies want to showcase the best moments in the trailers, this is why you get the best jokes from comedies in the trailer. But in horror that’s different, you can take the scariest scene from a film, but take it out of it’s context and it’s meaningless. The best adverts I’ve seen for horror over the last few years have been It Follows and The Gallows. Because they showed absolutely nothing. You left the trailer with more questions than when it started, you wanted to see it to find out what happened. In this sense, less is definitely more. Ok, The Gallows ended up being a dire pile of faecal matter, but the trailer was superb.

4. Final Jump Scare

I blame Paranormal Activity for this. That film (apparently) stayed relatively restrained throughout, but then ended with something jumping towards the camera, thereby making it a feature length version of one of those videos that asshole at work always shows you. The reasoning behind this was that it would mean the audience would leave the cinema still shaking, otherwise, you know, they might have forgotten it was a horror movie and think they just watched P.S I Love You (which is a film which inspires horror and despair, but for a different reason entirely). The trouble with these fourth wall breaking scares is they break the story. By this point the ghost or demon or cannibalistic giraffe has already been destroyed and everyone lives happily, but to then have the thing leap at the audience at the end just means the story isn’t over. And if there’s no sequel then the film is completely pointless as nothing changed, it’s just a story of a demon that kills then kills again. Now, this is different from a downer ending where you feel an unending sense of doom, as they’re usually set up well so you’re walking out scared of the world as opposed to just the tiny amount of fear that jump scares inspire.

Worst Offender: Unfriended

Not only was this pointless, but it ruined what would have been a fantastic ending that almost saved the film.

5. Jump Scares

If you’ve seen a horror film lately you know what this is, quiet quiet quiet, sudden loudness and something happens. This scares the audience. But it doesn’t, not really. It doesn’t fill you with terror and make you scared outside of the film. It won’t effect your life once you’ve left the cinema. Basically; they don’t last. You don’t walk around afterwards with that sense of genuine terror. Look, we get it, being genuinely scary is hard, but if you can’t do it, don’t bother attempting. I don’t want to be fine after your film, I want your film to fuck me up and leave me unable to sleep. And jump scares don’t do that. You can have a few of them, but they can’t be the entire modus operandi.



A Nightmare A Day: Day 3 (A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors)

Director: Chuck Russell. (Other credits include The Mask and The Scorpion King)

Budget: $4.5million

US Box Office: $44.7million

  • Ooooo, new New Line logo. This one looks less like the intro to a Commodore 64 game. Huge improvement.
  • Edgar Allen Poe quote “Sleep. Those little slices of death. How I loathe them”. This film gets points for reminding me that Eternal Darkness exists. Oh, and it’s a clever use of Poe.
  • Hey, Heather’s back.
  • This film’s so old they spell it Larry Fishburne.
  • The opening of this film seems to be a woman making pancakes. Yet through the use of music and clever angles it’s still creepier than Annabelle.
  • Oh wait, not pancakes, gluing newspaper pieces onto walls and doing other arts and crafts. Point still stands, f*ck Annabelle.
  • Mouthful of coffee grounds and swig of coke. Disgusting.
  • Wooo, heavy metal music. (Into the fire: dokken)
  • Has Patricia Arquette aged at all?
  • Dead bodies hung from the ceiling in an abandoned house. Well this film is just going to start off creepy isn’t it?
  • Wait, are they doing the first death this early?
  • Nope, she wakes up, just with slit wrists.
  • Hey kids, it’s Larry Fishburne, before he looked like a black Charlie Brooker, talking to someone who’s not entirely unlike Judge Reinhold.
  • Who’s the girl in the flannel? Looks like Kristen Stewart but 80’s.
  • Oh, guess she was just an extra.
  • Yay, Nancy/Heather’s back. I love recurring characters. Especially when they make sense. In the time between her last experience she’s actually done research into dreams etc, that makes a lot of sense and is good characterisation.
  • “kid last week sliced off his own eyelids so he could stay awake”. Holy hell that’s disturbing, I have to use that.
  • In a film, I should clarify.
  • A bike comes in, trailing three bits of blood along the floor then it kind of collapses into the floor. The real nightmare is shoddy workmanship at bike factories.
  • First death: 31 minutes. Seriously? I thought it was about 15. I suppose they’ve had to introduce a lot of new characters here so it doesn’t feel as long as it’s actually been. As big a fan as I am of the second film (especially since the rewatch yesterday), the opening act does drag a bit, although it’s worth it once it reaches it, like a two-legged dog playing fetch. This death always makes me wince and is definitely my favourite so far. Philip, who we’ve seen as being a puppet maker is being used by Freddy as some sort of marionette puppet, with his veins/arteries etc for strings. He’s then led up to the top of a tower and the strings are cut. Everyone who see’s him thinks he’s sleepwalking, which begs the question: if someone is sleepwalking through to an open window of a tall building, why would you not keep an eye on them? The security here is ridiculously bad. Yet another horror-movie death which could have been stopped by health and safety regulations.
  • Hey, flannel girl is more than an extra. Is odd as she was speaking in a previous scene and I didn’t recognise her not dressed like a lumberjack.
  • “then it was suicide, Philip quit, he gave up” Dude, not cool!
  • “he killed himself. Now, that’s a cowardly thing. That’s an empty thing” Dude, stop right there. I feel if you say anything else I’m going to wish harm upon you as a character.
  • “He let himself down. He let all of us down” I hope you get your penis caught in a combine harvester.
  • Time of second death: 38 minutes. Jennifer. Shame, I liked her, she seemed like a mix between Jennifer Tilly and Patricia Arquette. Probably the most famous death in this film due to Sassy Freddy. It’s the “welcome to prime time, bitch!” death.
  • “what faith do you follow?” “science”. How did I not remember that line is in this film? That’s brilliant.
  • Now we have the scene where everyone shows off their special dream powers, hence the “Dream Warriors” of the title. These films have been weird but every one has been unique and had it’s own purpose, they haven’t repeated themselves much. One can walk (and is a wizard), one is strong, and Taryn (the flannel girl) has knives and punk rock hotness.
  • And we have tits. Which is horror movie shorthand for “we don’t have much confidence in this, so we’re using nudity so that horny teenage boys will want to watch it”. I’m not against nudity in film, but in a lot of cases (sadly, it does have to be said, particularly in horror), it’s ridiculously exhibitionist and serves no purpose. I’m going to say this just the once: if you’ve ever watched a horror film just to see nudity, you’re an idiot. You know there are some films available online (and in certain shops) which contain nothing but nudity, right? And some even racier stuff, like kissing and hugging. If you want tits, buy tits, admit it, don’t watch a hour and a half film just for the 2 seconds of nudity, that’s idiotic, uneconomical, and just a little bit sad.
  • So Freddy pretended to be a woman, kissed this guy and then put him in a coma. There’s a myriad of different ways he could have put him in a coma. But for some reason he chose to use the method which required him kissing a teenage boy and tying him to a bed (with his tongue).
  • And here we have the origin story. Freddy’s mother was locked in an asylum and raped hundred of times, hence the nickname for Freddy “the bastard son of a hundred maniacs”. A few issues I have with this, 1) the age old myth of “all mental patients are dangerous maniacs” which was remarkably prevalent in horror before the 2000’s (seriously, count how many scary stories involve “an escaped mental patient”, not just films or books, but urban legends too). 2) “the bastard son of a hundred maniacs”. I guess we’re just ignoring the theory of mendelian genetics then? At most he’s the son of a singular maniac who’s sperm was strong enough to kill the sperm of the others.
  • Now we have another character from the first film return. It seems like they should have swapped this and the second one around.
  • So the bones must be buried in hallowed ground? Christian mythology is rife in horror films, so the next time someone says hollywood is scared of promoting Christianity, kick them in the temple.
  • Time of third death: 71 minutes. Lovely Taryn is injected with drugs as Freddy channels his inner Road Warrior. Why does everyone I love die? Oddly enough this scene is responsible for the film being banned in Australia as it was seen to promote drug use. Because obviously the first thing impressionable children think when they see someone die of a drug overdose is “drugs are awesome!”
  • Time of fourth death: 73 minutes. The guy in a wheelchair dies, because of course he does.
  • Harryhausen-esque skeleton now. Odd.
  • “I killed you once before you son of a bitch”, famous last words.
  • Time of fifth death: 82 minutes. The guy said the line in the previous note. Kind of a dull death for a returning character.
  • Time of sixth death: 86 minutes. And there goes Nancy. Normally when people return for horror film sequels they either survive or die in the opening scene. Here she’s the last death. Sad times. She had a semi-heroic death I guess but shame such an iconic character almost went out with a whimper.
  • The nun from earlier was Freddy’s mum? No, just no.
  • And the film ends with……a light turning on.

This film seems like it should have been swapped with the second. It’s a more direct sequel to the first film, seems to completely ignore the second film entirely. The series has to be commended for doing something different at least. All three films have been completely different stories. The second one was about possession, this one’s more about groups fighting back. This was the first Nightmare On Elm Street film I ever watched as my family had it on VHS back in the day. I don’t know where my family got it from, or why this was the only one they had. I guess some questions are just not meant to be answered, questions like “why are there so many songs about rainbows?”