Since I’ve started this site, I’ve written a lot of reviews. In case you missed some of my earlier ones, I would like to share a pair of reviews of both The Conjuring films which originally appeared here and here respectively.
In 1970, paranormal investigators and demonologists Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) and Ed (Patrick Wilson) Warren are summoned to the home of Carolyn (Lili Taylor) and Roger (Ron Livingston) Perron. The Perrons and their five daughters have recently moved into a secluded farmhouse, where a supernatural presence has made itself known. Though the manifestations are relatively benign at first, events soon escalate in horrifying fashion, especially after the Warrens discover the house’s macabre history.
I will start off by saying that I’m a big fan of horror films. I find they are the only real genre that ever gets me to feel something. I always like to jump every once in awhile and it’s also fun to challenge myself by trying not to jump while watching horror. I don’t think I’ve ever succeeded in that. Anyway, a lot of horror films nowadays all seem much too similar in that they are either jump scares and/or unnecessary violence. Don’t get me wrong, I can definitely go for some dismemberment every once in awhile but it just has to mean something. At least that’s what I felt before I saw this the first time back in 2013. I was expecting more of the same but since I like Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, I still gave this one a try and it ended up being much more.
The film starts off pretty tame enough with Ed (Wilson) and Lorraine (Farmiga) Warren lecturing some college students about some of their cases (of course one of them is about Annabelle and we all know how that turned out). We quickly learn that they’ve been around the block a few times, so to speak, and have suffered themselves from it so they know what they’re doing. While this is happening, we meet a family including Roger (Livingston) and Carolyn (Taylor) Perron and their five daughters who are moving into a new, secluded farmhouse. It’s pretty easy to figure out that something was eventually going to happen to them.
As most horror films go, it always starts with things moving on their own and also strange sounds and/or smells and/or feelings. Since these were innocent enough, the Perrons just kept living with it until it started to escalate. Because of that, Carolyn decides to attend one of their lectures and enlists the help of the Warrens in this situation. We don’t see them all come together until at least halfway through the film. That’s okay, however, since the Warrens have a life and a family of their own which they must take care of. This created the opportunity for more background into their lives and establish their chemistry early on. They had very good chemistry which made them fun and compelling to watch.
What was happening to the Perrons, we’ve all seen many times before but it just felt different here (more so the first time than the second time). What gets you hear is the ambiance in which the film created. It does so by utilizing sound design and cinematography in such a smart way that it really feels more immersive while also creating a sense of tension throughout. The lack of the standard “shaky cam” helped to make everything feel more real which just added to everything else. Setting the film in the 1970s also added to the realism. The actual scares themselves may not have been the most original but since they were presented in this way, it didn’t matter.
What also should be commended is the film’s pacing. Of course the film features the standard introductory period which probably didn’t have to be as long but the film really picked up during the second half, once everyone got together. Nothing felt rushed or dragged as everything was leading up to the inevitable conclusion. It’s amazing how the film does this with an R-rating without the use of gore, sex, or profanity. It’s just plain scary.
The best part of the film was the performances, particularly by Wilson and Farmiga. They were great here as their characters felt very real and fun to watch and were also very likeable. There was just something about the things they did that were also intriguing. Taylor and Livingston were good as the Perron parents, without giving anything away, excelled further on. Any film with a lot of kids could potentially go either way but they were not annoying here and didn’t take away from the experience.
Overall, this was a great, exciting horror film. While not exactly reinventing the wheel, it was very beautifully done while also featuring great performances by Wilson and Farmiga.
The Conjuring 2
In 1977, paranormal investigators Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) Warren come out of a self-imposed sabbatical to travel to Enfield, a borough in north London. There, they meet Peggy Hodgson (Frances O’Connor), an overwhelmed single mother of four who tells the couple that something evil is in her home. Ed and Lorraine believe her story when the youngest daughter Janet (Madison Wolfe) starts to show signs of demonic possession. As the Warrens try to help the besieged girl, they become the next target of the malicious spirits.
This is also another film off my list of most anticipated films of 2016. If you’ve been following this site on a regular basis, this should not come as much of a surprise to any of you since I’ve been a big fan of The Conjuring series. This came primarily due to the pairing of Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as Ed and Lorraine Warren. They made them into such likeable and compelling characters that I would watch them in anything. Why not in a sequel?
The film picks things up a few years after the events of the previous film with the Warrens in Amityville (google it) which leaves Lorraine (Farmiga) damaged once again as she is faced with another glimpse of evil in a demonic entity which she has previously encountered (from an instance referenced from the previous film), more on that later. Later, when she receives a vision of her husband’s potential death, this leaves her at a crossroads which forces her to begin to question whether or not she and Ed (Wilson) should continue to work cases. This reminds us that the Warrens still are real people, with their own lives and personal conflicts. This was still fun to watch as we got a little more background into their lives and their relationship. For the most part, the film had more of a focus on the Warrens then the first and that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.
While all of this was happening, we got to meet the Hodgson family, featuring a mother named Peggy (O’Connor), two daughters (Margaret and Janet), and two sons (Johnny and Billy). The only child we should concern ourselves with is Janet (Wolfe). When Margaret and Janet play around with a makeshift spirit board, they inadvertently summon the spirit of a man named Bill Wilkins (Bob Adrian). There’s not really anything new here horror-wise, featuring things like stuff moving on their own and strange noises. But just like in the previous film, it is how these are framed which is more important. What was so great about the previous film was its handling of ambiance through cinematography and sound design, this was still the case here, maybe more so this time around. Because of the increased focus on the Warrens and their relationship, there were less of these kinds of moments. The film definitely took advantage of these fewer moments, making the bulk of them feel scarier than the first film.
Without giving anything away, the film was a little more ambitious this time in trying to have more of a story by connecting the Warren’s own subplot to the rest of the plot which was interesting (considering this is based on a true story which in turn, makes you think how it all is connected). This worked for the most part, framing the Warrens’ mindset and personal motivations while adding some dimension to their characters. While the Warren drama was compelling, there was still a family in need here. Their own drama was compelling as well. The Hodgsons as a family were all likeable and relatable and were very interesting to watch. It was easy to be invested in their situation as they rallied around Janet as she became a conduit of the evil spirit. Wolfe’s performances as Janet was great here at going through all the stages while also helping us to empathize with the Hodgson’s plight.
With the increased focus on the Warrens, the film plays up their romance a little more which may seem out of place as this and the previous film have made it quite clear but it still worked here as this just gave them a little more personality. Wilson and Farmiga were still great here as Ed and Lorraine Warren. They were just as compelling and fun to watch even with their increased screen presence as they play a bigger part in the action here and in the plot.
Overall, this is another great addition in The Conjuring series, offering a compelling plot while building on its main characters in the Warrens and boasting great performances by Wilson and Farmiga.
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