Plot: It’s 1977. Ed & Lorraine Warren travel to the UK to help the Hodgson family, whose home is being haunted.
Cast: Directed by James Wan (SAW, Insidious 1&2). Vera Farmiga & Patrick Wilson return as paranormal investigators Lorraine & Ed Warren, Madison Wolfe (Woody Harrelson’s daughter in True Detective S1) as Janet Hodgson, the focus of the haunting.
• This was an ‘instant watch’ after the first! I consider The Conjuring the best horror of 2013 (beating out You’re Next and Evil Dead)
• I watch a lot of average horror films. It’s such a treat to watch a great horror film!
• Horror-wise it’s very effective – an oppressive mood. Immediately it tells you it’s business time, especially in the opening 40 minutes – there is persistent dread. The scenes flow into each other, staying with the haunted target (11-year old Janet) meaning there’s extended periods of unease. Fantastic.
• The setting of 70s working-class London family adds some charm with their thick accents, also contrasts with the Warren’s ‘clean’ American accents.
• The film could use some brightness and contrast. I get that’s the deal with horror films (shoot it in the dark so you can’t see if something’s in the shadows) but it’d be just as scary with 10% more light. If a film *needs* to be pitch black to be scary it isn’t scary. (That snarky remark wasn’t aimed at this film, just as a generality.) However in kayfabe it does stand to reason it’d be so dark as the family is quite poor, the single mother is unemployed so turning off all lights/conserving energy would be expected.
• This can’t be a coincidence but the house number is 619. I KNOW WHO THE DEMON IS! And he’s jumping off a boat.
• There’s some lovely camerawork punctuating the film. Of note: Starting off, the camera is taken all through the house (and up through a window) in what looks like a single take showing each of the children in different rooms; the youngest son Billy framed by the kitchen window, drinking water, looking out into the ominous garden; and later, the Ed Warren talks to the old man (through the child) – it’s shot with Ed in the foreground, and very-out-of-focus Janet/Old Man in the background. It lasts minutes and it’s great.
• The film has two storyline hauntings: In the US, Lorraine gets visions of a terrifying demon nun, and in the UK, the ghost of an old man is haunting a young family.
• There are three evils in the film: The demon nun, which is quite scary; the old man, who is also scary; and the crooked man, which is some tall, thin children’s book CGI disappointment. It’s incredibly out of place: a weightless, cartoonish, completely-CG monster (as opposed to the actors playing the nun/old man) spouting nursery rhymes, it’s a big let down – his appearance is the first groan of the movie.
• The three evils also differ in ferocity – the Crooked Man is very cartoony/the least threatening and trips up the son with his cane; the old man is more “get out of my house” by shouting and moving things, as opposed to the Demon Nun who’s into big displays of physical violence.
• It’s always satisfying when people who don’t believe something paranormal is happening, and happens right in front of them as indisputable proof. It happens to the mother, and to the police who were summoned afterwards.
• I enjoyed the explanation of ‘why don’t the church get involved?’ (i.e. get an exorcism going) as a priest comes to the Warrens telling them they’re not touching the case unless they know it’s real, so please go there for 3 days in our stead.
• Lorraine’s premonition at the start of the film (Ed being impaled/killed) is a driving force for her actions and source of her incredible anxiety — which works doubly well – to make sure this premonition/prophesy doesn’t come true (it’s heavily hinted in the film) and to get her off her game — as she, in general, is very strong in the face of demons, not easily rattled unless actually attacked.
• Prior to the final push, there’s some much-appreciated levity to have the family and Warrens forget about their troubles for a few minutes, as Ed sings some Elvis to the kids. Checking out the cameraman’s equipment (massive 70s over the shoulder camera) he remarks “it’s so small and light!” HA!
• The Warrens have some help in the UK, that being English toff and believer Maurice Grosse, Academic/non-believer Peggy Nottingham, with the Warrens somewhere in between.
• Over the credits they actually play the audio tapes of the Warrens & The Hodgsons and show pictures of the real people. It’s very cool (and far less impressive than the film version, lol) and in general they got the set-dressings, costumes and some actors look very similar to their real life counterparts. They re-create photos (like Janet levitating) which is great!
• The movie is well-written, acted and laid out. My only quibble is that it is a bit long, running at 2 hours 14 minutes. Should’ve cut out one round of early hauntings and the crooked man entirely to make a tighter film.
Overall: James Wan knocks it out of the park again, a top contender for best horror film this year. Suitably atmospheric with persistent dread and satisfying conclusion.
If you saw the film lemme know what you thought of it! Currently editing Fall Brawl. You’ll see why it’s taking so long when the episode drops. Update on the next OSW later in the week!