Horror Drive-In vs. ‘The Conjuring 2’

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Horror Drive-In vs. The Conjuring 2

Conjuring2Poster1I try. I really do. I want to like every horror movie I see. Every book I pick up. I know I can be a curmudgeon, but I have never gone into something with the intention of trashing it.

And yet I am disappointed all too often. Not only am I disappointed, I usually seem to be on the opposite end of the opinion spectrum than most.

Case in point: The Conjuring 2. A movie that is earning a lot of positive buzz. According to Rotten Tomatoes, this sequel is being well received by the critics. Well, I’ve always maintained that your average movie critic hasn’t a clue as to what constitutes quality horror.

I didn’t mind The Conjuring. I thought the first half had some extremely effective moments. Director James Wan has shown skill at establishing and maintaining tension and dread in his movies. The second half of The Conjuring? Well, it all became kind of silly once the cat was out of the bag and we began to see physical manifestations of the haunting.

Hell, I’m a gorehound from way back, but I have always felt that less is much more when it comes to ghost stories. Take a look at Robert Wise’s adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. This gothic masterpiece relies almost entirely upon mood, setting, performance, story, sound editing, and music to scare the audience. And it really is scary. In these stories one’s own imagination of what lurks just beyond the threshold of sight and perception is almost always scarier than special effects.

But, hey, today’s audiences want to see the ghosts and demon infestations, and the filmmakers give them just that.

A shaky thumbs up, perhaps, but I rather enjoyed The Conjuring.

Now we have The Conjuring 2. As I said, the buzz is mostly positive. While I’ve never loved a Wan movie, I’ve never really hated one either. How could it miss?

Ahem.

For me, it missed. By miles and miles.

There are trite cliches everywhere. It seemed like every scene was one I had predicted. I can’t say that there was no attempt at atmosphere or character, because the build-up went on forever. I love slow burns, but there has got to be a payoff.

And lapses in logic? Forget that the children should have been removed from the house the minute the pros came on board, but why, oh why would they continue to leave children alone in the house while there were so many adults around? They were farting around in the basement, outside smoking, while the lives of the kids were in danger. Would YOU have left those children unattended if you were a fancy-schmancy investigator from the church? Especially when so many fucked-up things were going on? Neither would I.

Emotion? I know that Vera Farmiga is a wonderful actress. You only have to look at Up in the Air to see that. But in The Conjuring 2 she shows all the range of an ear of corn. I didn’t feel one bit of genuine feeling in the would-be tender scenes between her and Patrick Wilson.

Scary? I guess I was supposed to be trembling from the Marilyn Manson nun who terrorized the family. I was trembling all right. With laughter. While I was trying to keep from yawning myself to sleep.

Competently done? Well, yeah. The camerawork was interesting enough. It’s a thoroughly professional production. With all the life and heart of a computer game.

Same old, same old, nothing new, nothing fresh, nothing even remotely inspired in the picture.

The thing that gets me, though, is how many horror fans are enjoying The Conjuring 2. I don’t see anyone claiming that it is a masterpiece, but most I see are calling it an effective and enjoyable movie experience.

Am I becoming too harsh? Me, the guy who didn’t hate The Apparition, while everyone else dogpiled it with disdain? Me? The one who admittedly likes a surprising number of remakes.

TuckerDaleThen again, I cringe at the memory of universally loved movies like The Final Girls, and Tucker and Dale vs. Evil. And please don’t get me started on the grungy horror movies of Rob Zombie.

Am I becoming too horror jaded? I’ve been at the game longer than most. I really don’t know. All I do know is, I know what I like and what I don’t like, and I try to give specific, thought-out reasons why.

I hope the paranormal movie cycle is winding down. I’ve seen a lot of them. The Insidiouses, the Activities, the Sinisters. I’ve even endured a few painful moments of the reality TV paranormal investigator stuff. I think I enjoy the minimal approach of the first three Paranormal Activity movies the most of the bunch.

While I’m on a roll, there’s one more thing. Am I the only one who hates the whole digital look of movies today? Where the entire things look like they are done on a green screen? It looks too sanitized, too safe and clean. Too much like animation. I miss the days when underground mavericks shot dangerously on low grade film stock. It was more gritty and much more convincing to me. But then times change and film is expensive, while digital photography and editing is cheap. Ah, I suppose I ought to say inexpensive. I’ve had tech-heads chastise the shit out of me for calling digital effects cheap.

I don’t really think I’m all that picky. I just want our storytellers to have a modicum of respect for the audience and the genre. Or at least try to have a little fun with things. Is that really too much to ask? For me, The Conjuring 2 had neither.

I do not regret going to see the movie. I try to see movies before judging them, and I never mind paying for the privilege of doing so. I also don’t really mind that The Conjuring 2 is conjuring up big box office revenue around the globe. How could I? I was one of the ones who paid to play.

Mark Sieber learned to love horror with Universal, Hammer, and AIP movies, a Scholastic edition of Poe’s Eight Tales of Terror, Sir Graves Ghastly Presents, The Twilight Zone, Shirley Jackson’s The Daemon Lover, The Night Stalker, and a hundred other dark influences. He came into his own in the great horror boom of the 1980’s, reading Charles L. Grant, F. Paul Wilson, Ray Russell, Skipp and Spector, David J. Schow, Stephen King, and countless others. Meanwhile he spent as many hours as possible at drive-in theaters, watching slasher sequels, horror comedies, monster movies, and every other imaginable type of exploitation movie. When the VHS revolution hit, he discovered the joys of Italian and other international horror gems. Trends come and go, but he still enjoys having the living crap scared out of him. He can be reached at horrordrivein@yandex.com, and at www.horrordrive-in.com.

1 thought on “Horror Drive-In vs. ‘The Conjuring 2’”

  1. You are not alone. My first horror movie was 1958’s The Blob when I was 3. I’ve been watching every horror movie I can for almost 50 years (which puts me in your time frame) & I’ve been disappointed, if not outright infuriated, at 99.9% of them. Stephen King said in Danse Macabre that horror fans are the most hopeful because we continually wade through cinematic dreck in search of those few rare gems of honestly spine-tingling horror. You are also correct in that most critics have no clue how to critique a horror film. My first experience in that regard was The Blair Witch Project. Wildly overrated & so infuriating I still want to punch something when I hear about it. It started the found-footage mess horror has become, although there are a few that are decent, such as Insidious & I liked Annabelle. Most horror today is so repetitive – what’s with the shaggy-haired female ghosts/demons in every one? I blame The Ring & its Japanese ilk with their vastly inferior American ripoffs. Unlike you, I don’t pay to see horror movies anymore because too many are not worth the $1 at my local discount theatre, let alone $9.50 for regular priced showings. I’d like to list all my favorites, but you probably already agree with what they are, so I’ll end with a few of my favorite (recent) horrors: Session 9, Lake Placid, Slither, The Crazies (2010), High Tension. I can’t think of any more without consulting The List of A Thousand Movies. Horror is generational, so the paranormal trend should end soon. In the meantime, keep digging. Something wonderful will always eventually turn up in one of those darkened theaters to renew your faith.

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