Bloody Hell: “The Conjuring 2” and the Start of a Legitimate Horror Franchise

Don’t be surprised if the Warrens and their personal anecdotes end up being the horror version of Marvel.

Did you know there are going to be five movies in this little series before you can blink and get possessed?

2013: The Conjuring

2014: Annabelle

2016: The Conjuring 2

2017: Annabelle sequel

The fifth is a reported spin-off film featuring the terrifying demon nun seen in The Conjuring 2 which should be released within the next three years – if not sooner – assuming there aren’t any serious delays. Ladies and gentlemen, I think we have a genuine franchise here.

While it may be an exaggeration to compare it to Marvel, the point is that making good movies is not as easy as one might think, much less making a bunch of them that connect together in some coherent way. And yet, Marvel has a reputation for doing exactly that and it’s becoming exceedingly clear that director James Wan is doing the same for the horror genre.

His greatest feat isn’t making us shit our pants; I would argue it’s the fact that he’s making legitimately good films that also happen to scare us. I remember The Conjuring being a strong piece of art. It was sturdy and a technical masterpiece on how to combine the basic elements of filmmaking into a final creation that ended up being one of the best horror films of the past ten, if not twenty, years.

While the sequel, which ships the Warrens (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) to Great Britain to help a family and simultaneously fight their own struggles with faith and the unholy, doesn’t pack quite the punch as the original, it’s clear James Wan is onto something.

I think he may have found the elusive formula on how to make horror good and not just scary. There’s a distinction, you know. It’s not hard to scare people, especially if it’s a movie and especially if people are sitting in a theater where the screen is bound to be massive and the sound is almost too intense.

Sometimes a movie focuses too much on the technical aspect and doesn’t realize what genre it’s in matters as well. You know, like Goodnight Mommy. Like many things in life, balance is important, and it looks like James Wan has found a way to walk that balancing act between simply scary and simply technically sound.

Even if it’s “easy” scaring people, there’s a number of ways to accomplish that goal. One of the most consistent – and cheapest – methods is the jump scare, which The Conjuring 2 relies on a little too much. However, the first movie and this one really show their quality when suspense is used to dial up the tension, and it certainly helps that Vera Farmiga sells tension really well.

There’s one scene inside their own home, where Lorraine Warren and her daughter are confronted with the jolting appearance of a demon nun standing at the opposite end of a hallway. Warren foolishly pursues the demon into Ed’s study, only to get trapped. From that point on, it’s only a matter of time before you’re scraping crap off your underwear.

I don’t think it’s a surprise there’s a spin-off film in the works for that nun. Although the Great Britain portions of the film aren’t a letdown, it’s honestly a lot of material we’ve seen before in a myriad of previous, if admittedly inferior, horror movies.

In other words, while The Conjuring 2 doesn’t revolutionize the genre, it doesn’t give it a bad name either. I don’t remember if it was Burn Notice or something else I watched, but I remember hearing how torture is often psychological; the waiting can sometimes crack someone before any physical actions are required.

That’s the enduring philosophy behind James Wan’s approach and it works for sure. I’ve never experienced tension in a movie like this, where audience members are audibly squirming and making frantic squeaky sounds as they wait for the inevitable climax of any given scene. It’s a masterful approach, really, and it’s a shame a decision was made to sprinkle more than a handful of jump scares in as well.

Still, the overall experience is worth it. And even though that suspense ends up being a red herring here and there (another solid strategy, if you think about it), inadvertently causing the movie to drag a few times, I would say that drag is a small price to pay for the rare sequel that isn’t a massive drop in quality compared to its predecessor.

Add in the fact that the cinematography is solid, and the soundtrack is appropriately freaky, and you’ve got the beginnings of a horror franchise that is simultaneously financially and critically successful. I can’t wait for the nun movie – can’t say the same about the Annabelle sequel, unfortunately – and I am also hyped to see what James Wan does next with this promising series.

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