The Conjuring 2 – Review

The Conjuring 2 started off like a 4 star horror movie but by the end it was lingering around the number 3. And I think I know why. From the scrolling written intro, with its truly hair-raising choral blast old school horror soundtrack, we’re literally bombarded with every trick James Wan wants to throw at us. Everything INCLUDING the kitchen sink which possible does fly across the kitchen at one point.

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The double whammy of gorgeous Patrick Wilson and classy Vera Farmiga ushers us into the famous Amityville House in the film’s prologue. Ghost-hunting duo the Warrens hold a séance and Lorraine (Farmiga) finds herself stuck in the video shop rental classic Amityville 2: The Possession, walking around the house reliving the massacre of the original family.

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Only with this being a 15-rated crowd-pleaser, the grit and grime of the original story is gone and replaced by slick production values and none of the visceral horror felt back in the day. Confronted in the Amityville basement by the ghost-train-screamer Evil Nun, Lorraine wakes from her trance and swears to never get ‘this close to hell’ again.

Fast forward to the UK in the 70s where the famous Enfield Haunting is about to take place. Well-documented and infamous, this haunting inspired the cult classic ‘Ghostwatch’ shown on UK TV in 1992, when respectable TV presenters Sarah Green and Michael Parkinson staged a faux haunted house documentary and conned half the country into believing they were seeing a real live horror show play out on good old BBC1. I was one of the duped – at 11 years of age I was terrified and didn’t sleep for nights after.

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I had some hopes that this movie would scare me just as much. And in parts it looked like that could well happen. As the Enfield haunting gets under way at the home of working class cockneys The Hodgsons, the targets of the poltergeist, Janet (Madison Wolfe) and Margaret (Lauren Esposito) wake up to bumps, bangs, creaks… And then in a spine-chilling scene, the raspy disembodied voice of an old man growling at them from the shadows. Truly terrifying, this and some subsequent scenes play on all the right fears. The dark. The noise downstairs. The heavy breathing coming from the other side of your protective duvet.

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No genre stone is left unturned to scare the audience – and if you add to that some lovely characterisation of the Hodgson family and their neighbours as the paranormal shit hits the fan, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’re in for a treat. And you kind of are.

But then it all goes a bit wrong. Or it did for me. There’s a subplot with Lorraine Warren being stalked by the ghostly Nun, having premonitions of her husband’s grisly death, and whilst it’s intriguing and the Nun is always an enjoyable spook device, it does tend to make the whole film seem a little unfocused. Wan puts a great amount of effort into making us care for the Hodgsons only to then whisk us off to the USA to pepper in the Warrens’ story too. And quite frankly it’s not needed. Or at least we could do with less of it.

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Talk is afoot of a spin-off concentrating on The Nun. Cool. She’s a good villain. People are scared by her presence. So why not hold back, give this film room to enjoy the characters at its heart – and save old Sister Sinister for her own frightfest?

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The Warrens are approached to help the Hodgsons and so the film tails off further. A Tim Burtonesque demon emerging from the creepy zoetrope ‘The Crooked Man’, and levitating possessed teenagers only serve to make us think of the superior films they’re borrowed from, The Babadook and The Exorcist.

And whilst I welcome the character development and the heart on display in the kids meeting the ghost hunters and the stressed out mother finally finding some sort of support only to have it taken away again, far too much time is spent peddling schmaltz and sentimentality for my liking. Taking the running time to over 2 hours – which NO horror movie should even come near – it drags the film off on a tangent.

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The villain, Bill Wilkins, is truly scary. Seeing him emerge from behind the TV, hearing his heavy breathing in the dark, watching him terrorise the kids and enjoy every moment, is blood curdling and brilliant. But once Wan tries to tie in the Nun, the evil demon chasing the Warrens, and hits us with exposition, claptrap about how to slay the demon by learning its true name (yawn) and not-so-subtle Christian propaganda, it’s time to tune out.

The Conjuring 2 could have been a 90-100 minute film that scared, moved and surprised me. But given the freedom to meander and the over-eagerness to crowd-please, it winds up a little bloated. But I still preferred it to the first movie.

It’s clearly going to be a long running franchise, with 70s throwback reports to people dying after seeing it, hysterical tweets about how terrifying it is. There will be another. And I will see it. I just hope they remember to trim the fat next time around. The golden rule of supernatural horror is that we’re always more scared of the unknown. Once you bring out the demons like you’re part of a thrill ride on a cheap fun fair, all you can offer are jump scares. And some of us want more.

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Hear our review of The Conjuring 2 in our latest podcast episode, also looking at Dario Argento’s masterpiece ‘Suspiria’…

http://screamingqueenz.podbean.com/e/screaming-queenz-ep-11-conjuring-argento/

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Welcome to Hell, darling.

Picture the scene. A darkened room. Candles are lit. A virgin is tied to an altar with a pentagram painted in blood on his shiny, throbbing abs. A speck of fear-spit glistens on his full lips, trickling into his sculpted yet masculine facial hair. Above him towers a drag queen, Lucille Ball on crystal meth, a strap-on dildo jutting from her waist, the blood of a dead goat dripping from her chin, a dagger poised over his trembling erect right nipple. Madonna’s ‘Like a Prayer’ plays backwards, the room fills with the evil of a thousand gay devils, and the congregation, a zombified House of LaBeija, stagger closer to see a certain sacrifice up close. Soon the virgin boy will be dead, and the mistress will be risen, but not if his tough dyke best friend has anything to do with it. Played by Eliza Dushku, she’s about to leap from the pink velvet curtains, machine gun in hand, and save the boy, before she gets the girl…

You’ve seen this movie, right?

No, neither have we. Because horror, much as we love it, has to play to its audience. And the powers that be (Blumhouse, the Weinsteins) believe that audience to be heterosexuals in their teens to thirties gorging on popcorn, opening apps on their phones just as the film begins, waiting to be led through the same formula again and again until the movie ends 90 minutes later and they say it was shit and the go home and forget what they saw because they’ve seen it again and again and again and… And breathe.

Well we’re not that audience. And we don’t think you are. That’s why we started this podcast. Scratch the homogenised multiplex surface and beneath it, writhing in the darkness like Sigourney Weaver in the hot mess that was Alien Resurrection, is something less obvious. Something less perfect. Something less polished. It’s a group of post-apocalyptic geeks who survived the Blumhouse Blast. They saw their best friends get eaten up and they stepped into a titty-tastic jumpsuit, tooled up with a cross bow, and jumped on weather-beaten quad bikes and they’re now riding out into the night looking for others like them… and vengeance!

Or something like that. We’re not trying to re-dress the balance. We don’t think every movie should have as much dick as it does titties. But we’re here to celebrate the camp, the twisted – the downright queer. So what’s queer about horror? What’s horror about queer?

Fairuza Balk melting down in The Craft, dragging her pointed shoes across the floor as she levitates towards a terrified Skeet Ulrich. You wanna be her. You’re queer.

Jesse gets his shorts pulled down by Grady in Nightmare on Elm Street 2. There’s that little bit of jockstrap. They wrestle in the sun. Their homo coach makes them do sweaty press-ups on the grass. You wanna be the grass. You’re queer.

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Aunt Martha sends the kids off to Sleepaway Camp whilst turning to camera and sharing her creepy, OTT thoughts with the audience, finger to chin, like she walks through life with speech bubbles coming out of her Stepford-wigged, gin-addled brain. You applaud her greatness and hope to grow up to be her. You’re queer.

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But ultimately you just wanna be scared, turned on, grossed out, appalled by movies that don’t necessarily hit the multiplex and bring in the popcorn crowd. You’re one of us. So check out our podcasts.

As I publish this first post we’re up to episode 10. We started off a little nervous, but we eased up as went along and it’s only downhill (in a good way) from here. So join us for the ride. And please give us your feedback whether it’s on our iTunes, at our email screamingqueenz@gmail.com, or here on this page.

Podcasts here on podbean: http://screamingqueenz.podbean.com

Podcasts here on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/screaming-queenz/id1070845275?mt=2

Saddle up, grab a pick axe and hit the hairspray. We’ve got beige to fight. And it’s gonna get messy…