*NEW* THE CONJURING 2 REVIEW *NEW*

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Is this the best that James Wan could conjure up?

Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) and Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson) travel to north London to help a single mother raising four children alone in a house plagued by a malicious spirit.

I enjoyed the Conjuring. It may have been a little over-hyped BUT it was certainly one of the best horror films I’ve seen in the last decade. I wasn’t surprised to hear that a sequel was in the pipeline BUT after the abysmal Annabelle spin-off, I was anxious to say the least.

The first hour was brilliant. It took the same winning formula from the original and perfected it. The tense opening act got the ball rolling as our infamous paranormal investigators took on the Amityville Horror case. Thankfully Wan didn’t focus on that too much BUT it was a nice touch tying it in with the Enfield Haunting.

BUT despite the bubbling suspense, I was still a little disappointed that Wan took on Enfield in the first place. Especially when the critically acclaimed TV drama (A must watch) came out earlier this year. It was tough for me NOT to draw comparisons. We all know of the Enfield Haunting to some extent. If you were lucky enough NOT to, then this will freak you out a whole lot more.

Luckily Wan provided a creepy new addition for his roster of demented demons. I won’t be looking at nuns in the same way. That’s for sure.

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Shudder.

Every time she appeared in Farmiga’s dreams, I fidgeting uncomfortably. Nails bitten off.

Vera Farmiga was fantastic and carried the film when the pace dragged. The same cannot be said for Patrick Wilson. He was laughable and quite weak this time around. I guess it didn’t help matters that the story revolved primarily around Lorraine and her inner turmoil. Her dealings with the afterlife taking its toll.

Madison Wolfe was excellent as Janet Hodgson. Thank God the main child actor delivered because the others certainly didn’t. It was terrible having to listen to a good portion of the supporting cast screeching in horribly mangled “Cockney” accents.

Janet’s possession sequences were frightening. That was until the demented host spoke. The ghoul of Bill Wilkins (Bob Adrian) was creepy BUT once he started bellowing like Argus Filch from Harry Potter, it killed all the tension for me.

Wan loves to draw out a scene. Playing with the audience. Teasing the tension (aided by Joseph Bishara’s creepy score). The elongated hallway shots. The angles. The suspense as you knew something was going to happen or pop out.

For 60 minutes, I was fidgeting uneasily and caught up in it. Something I haven’t been able to do with a horror film in quite some time. BUT something somehow went wrong during the second half of the film. There was a moment where the film changed and lost all the fun for me. Spiralling downhill rapidly.

As soon as a neighbour’s Rottweiler morphed into something that looked like Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas, my fears subsided as did my patience.

The pace dragged putting me into a mini-coma (The 132 minute length really did take the biscuit). BUT the longer it went on, the funnier it got. I would have said that this could have been ripe for a parody BUT by the end, it didn’t need one. It didn’t help having weak characters BUT the performances, my God!

Franka Potente (Creep) was completely unnecessary as another paranormal investigator. Talk about too many cooks spoiling the broth. Maria Doyle Kennedy (Orphan Black) was heavily underused in a ridiculous supporting role as a neighbour. Anyone could have played her.

Simon McBurney (Rev) was hilarious as paranormal investigator Maurice Grosse for all the wrong reasons. His conversation with a possessed Janet had me in stitches; “No, no, this isn’t your house!” Frances O’Connor (Artificial Intelligence) got on my wick as troubled mother Peggy. There was one scene in particular where she notices a demented corpse creeping towards Ed (Wilson) and what does our bewildered heroine do? Point a flashlight at the thing and say, “”Ere, whose that?”. Bearing in mind, we’ve had 80 minutes of messed up mayhem at this point. Come on!

Even the Nun (Bonnie Aarons) got on my nerves by the end. She kept popping up screaming and shrieking every five minutes. I desperately wanted her to go.

If Wan could have spend more time on pace, story and character instead of creating creepy new characters with needless spin offs then this would have been worth the hype! BUT the frantic finale dragged its heels and didn’t pay off.

Horror films just haven’t been the same in a very long time. Relying on hype and cheap scares. Scariest film of the year? Hell to the no. BUT it’s still the best of the rest. And that’s the biggest scare of all.

2.5/5

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*NEW* LIGHTS OUT REVIEW *NEW*

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It didn’t have me screaming for the lights on.

When her little brother Martin (Gabriel Bateman – Annabelle) experiences the same events that once tested her sanity, Rebecca (Teresa Palmer – Warm Bodies) works to unlock the truth behind the terror, which brings her face to face with an entity that has an attachment to their mother, Sophie (Maria Bello – A History of Violence).

When I first heard that James Wan (The Conjuring/Saw) had green lit the spine tingling short Lights Out, I was annoyed. Especially when I saw the trailers circulated around the Internet. A loosely stringed story stretched out into 90 minutes with a few screams along the way. Well, that’s what I thought I was going to say.

In all fairness, it was actually quite good. A creepy opening in a big dark warehouse with motion sensors certainly got things going. With every flash of the light, the dark demon grew closer to its unsuspecting prey. It was a nice touch getting the original scare victim from the short in a cameo (Lotta Losten).

Director David F. Sandberg orchestrated some genuinely creepy moments and tense sequences and certainly played on an old fear. A ghoul that attacks from the smallest patch of darkness. Spookkaaayy.

The premise wasn’t bad. Hardly original BUT it did the job. A crazed mental patient with demonic abilities latching onto a family. Why? How? Well, if I told you that, there’d be no point in watching it.

I did sigh at Palmer’s introduction as her character drudged through some cheesy guff about personal space and not trusting anyone after her mum. The corny exchanges with her silly boyfriend did put me into a mini-coma. Thankfully once little brother Martin and her drug-induced head case of a mother were brought into the mix, my interest was peaked.

Palmer was a likeable lead and Bateman was very good. As I’ve said in previous reviews, it’s tough for child actors to get that balance right. He really carried the film when some of his older counterparts might have been phoning in their lines. I was actually rooting for the little guy to survive.

Maria Bello played the mother well. Her introduction was freaky as a tired Martin walks in on her having a conversation with the demented demon in the closet. Hell to the no! The only problem was despite one other creepy scene, she was largely absent. Shame. There may have been a fair amount of cliched dialogue BUT I still liked the family dynamic and wanted more of that.

The flashbacks and endless repetition about the origins of the demon Diana and her mystery illness to light got a little annoying and killed a lot of the buzz. Despite the film only being 81 minutes, it did have the tendency to drag in parts.

BUT one thing I will commend was seeing these characters actually not make the same old horror movie mistakes. Hang on, this b*tch doesn’t like lights. I’ll surround the place with candles, UV lights, torches and put them in every nook and cranny.

The scares weren’t bad. Every time the lights went out, a feeling of unease would take over and I could feel my eyes looking at the corners of the screen. It did get me a couple of times. BUT there were moments where it relied heavily on loud noises and horrendous screams (And that was just from the hypersensitive audience! I kid you not. There was a lad hyperventilating into his hoodie. Behave!).

It was hardly ground breaking or original BUT enjoyable enough. In fact I enjoyed this more than the over-hyped misfire that was the Conjuring 2 (There, I said it!)

3/5

INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 3 REVIEW

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Spook me once, shame on you. Spook me twice, shame on me. Spook me thr- If you can do that, then you’re doing something right.

They still got it! The third (Well, first) installment of the relentless Insidious franchise haunts the silver screen yet again. And let’s just say, I wasn’t screaming for my money back.

A prequel set before the haunting of the Lambert family that reveals how gifted psychic Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye) reluctantly agrees to use her ability to contact the dead in order to help a teenage girl (Stefanie Scott) who has been targeted by a dangerous supernatural entity.

If you had asked if there were any decent horror films about these days? Insidious and The Conjuring would have probably been the only examples my brain could muster. Okay maybe Paranormal Activity (The original and the third at a push).

I went in to the first Insidious expecting nothing after so many demonic duds and was rewarded with nail biting tension, jumps, a story and characters I actually gave two monkeys about. Understandably it fared well. Bringing back the old school haunted house horror genre with a bang!

I liked how writer/director Leigh Whannell put a fresh spin on the whole thing by incorporating the idea of the paranormal dimensions and The Further. It really stood out for me even when the scares may have been a little lacklustre. Inevitably a sequel was soon green-lit and a franchise was born.

I won’t spoil too much for those who haven’t seen the other films or Annabelle (The less we say about that, the better. The only disappointment of Whannell’s creepy collection). If anything, this would probably be the best one to start with.

Recurring characters and little references may spoil the experience a little but you can fill the blanks quite easily. BUT the opening of Insidious 3 didn’t really get things going and I could feel my hopes wading fast. NOT even the opening score that used to scare the living daylights out of me did anything. It seemed like someone had forgot to turn the volume on. Normally, I dread the opening titles. Can’t remember. Let’s remind you . . .

A weak Lin Shaye performing a reading with Scott’s peppy acting student was cliched and slow. Not a great start. We had to watch minutes tick by as Scott spoke about her family and the recent passing of her mother. It was all by the book and predictable.

The broken family dynamic with Delmot Mulroney’s dreary (No seriously. Was he on something?) dad unable to cope was unintentionally comical. Scott’s flirty exchanges with the boy next door. Sigh. Boring. Thankfully Whannell didn’t bother focusing on that love angle at all. A relief.

BUT then strange things began to happen. Weird figures waving (No seriously. What was the deal with the waving?) Disappearing and reappearing. AND out of nowhere. BAM! One nasty accident. The film found it’s form. And I was an anxious mess.

Before I knew it, the jumps flew in thick and fast. The tension and suspense may have been predictable but it still got my heart racing. The sly hand across face to wipe hair that wasn’t there. Just in case something lashed out from under the bed or something.

Scott played the role well and managed to make a memorable turn. It was just a shame that her character was so cliched and when she had the leg cast, there wasn’t much she could do. If anything, this wasn’t really her story.

It was the story of one of my favourite characters in the franchise, Lin Shaye’s medium Elise Rainier. As soon as she appeared in the first Insidious, I was intrigued. A well written character that had an interesting and mysterious back story.

Whannell finally shows us that very back story that the previous two merely hinted at. He also creates a new creepy demon to give people sleepless nights with The Man Who Couldn’t Breathe (Michael Reid MacKay). The demon that has taken a shine to Scott’s Quinn.

Despite a slumbering start, Insidious Chapter 3 did something that other horror films have failed to do. Keep me interested. It was tense, suspenseful and creepy. You could argue the build up was predictable. The figures in the curtains. The faint little voices. The OTT and incredibly loud movie score making you tremble if the scare didn’t.

BUT believe me there were a quite few scares that got me. Normally I can sit there and deliver a countdown before a jumpy bit emerges. Not this time. It’s good when you fear that all the best bits have been flogged in the trailer. Only to be proved wrong in the first 30 minutes.

For Insidious fans, we finally understand Rainier’s reluctance to help the Lambert family from the earlier films (No, get this right. Later films). If anything, you have more respect for her. Either that or you’ll think she’s even more bonkers for venturing into the Further again.

Tom Fitzpatrick’s The Bride in Black makes a very unwelcome return. Only because the b*stard kept making me jump. No seriously, he made me jump twice doing the exact same thing. And be warned a certain Darth Maul looking like demon does make a surprise appearance.

The only problem with The Bride in Black was that the more he appeared, the funnier it got. An encounter with Rainier should have a pivotal moment but it came off like something out of A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child. I would show the clip BUT the horror, the horror!

And of course, we get to see how Rainier got together with Specs (Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson). Their presence did lighten things up but didn’t spoil anything. To be honest, the film was strong enough without them but it was nice for Whannell to make everything come full circle.

The pace may have been patchy. The opening a little slow. More could have been made from Rainier’s past. BUT once it got going, I was one happy horror fan. And I felt the film got stronger like it’s demented host as it drew to it’s frantic (and slightly corny) close. I actually preferred this outing to Insidious Chapter 2.

And you know what? I can’t wait for another spooky encounter.

3/5

THE BABADOOK REVIEW

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The Baba-boo-k!

A well-acted low budget horror that fails to live up to the hype. The wait for a decent horror movie goes on . . .

After all the buzz and promise, I came out of the cinema not in tears from fear and anxiety but tears of laughter.

After enduring a slow burning 40-odd minute build up, the moment arrives. The moment in which the dreaded Babadook finally makes its appearance and boy, oh, boy . . .

His cry sounded like a demented sheep. Baaa Baaa Dook. His appearance? *POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT* Nothingy more than Noel Fielding in his Hitcher get up from The Mighty Boosh. Minus the polo mint for an eye. And too much black lipstick. Oh! And of course, not forgetting those rubbery gloves that the Penguin wore in Batman Returns to complete the look.

To be honest, The Babadook felt like it was going through the motions. Or more importantly, through the checklist. Creaky floorboard here. Closing door there. Predictable. It doesn’t help that when the creature finally makes its appearance, it disappoints on every level.

It’s always a risk. I mean, look at Signs! After all the little teasers, the shadows in the night, the fast moving shapes and then we get that dreadful CGI thing. I was more freaked out by the demented pop up characters in the Babadook book (Totally rhymed there) than the actual demon. Thanks to the brilliant stop motion animation of Michael Cusack.

A little harsh you might say. Now, there are some plaudits to be had here and it’s not all bad just a little disappointing. Writer/director Jennifer Kent actually tried to tell a story. One that deals with grief and overcoming fears. Commendable in this day of shaky handcam and found footage horror movies that are in need of some serious exorcisms from the cinema.

And more importantly with two characters that you actually cared about. On first impressions, I was afraid that Daniel Henshall would annoy the hell out of me as Robbie. His initial monster hunter spiel was a little OTT but it did make for some comical moments as an exhausted Amelia (Essie Davis) must check every cupboard and nook and cranny.

However, as his character continued acting out and we learn more about his behaviour, I applaud the young lad’s performance and by the end I was routing for him. Essie Davis (The Matrix Revolutions – I know? I’m still trying to work out who?) was fantastic and played the grief stricken mother. She works well with Henshall and they make a great and believable pairing.

The film does deal with depression and paranoia quite well. And to be honest, there was a reasonable story beneath the surface. Amelia and Prue’s (Cathy Adamek) fractious sibling relationship was interesting and made for some heated drama with Prue prying into Robbie’s wellbeing. To be honest there were parts where I thought that maybe Tim Purcell’s Babadook wasn’t needed at all.

Don’t get me wrong, the bumps in the night, the Babadook popping up in books, neighbour’s homes and televisions was eery and the strange noises did create good moments of suspense but the big pay off wasn’t worth the wait. The scuttling and the door knocking was creepy enough but you kept wanting more. Oh . . . And the finale!

I could feel the burning eyes of my fellow cinema goers as I struggled to fight back the snorting. It actually made me snort with laughter.

Without saying too much. It felt like something out of Home Alone with little ‘ol Robbie doing everything to protect his family. With his little arsenal of weaponry in tow, he fired cricket balls, set up trip wire on the stairs. Comical.

The ending wasn’t bad but it was a little flat after a frenetic and tense few minutes. In fact it was a little weird and a little predictable. It had good moments, a couple of jumpy bits and tried to be a little more than your bog standard horror but it just didn’t polish off as well as you hoped.

Certainly not the worst. In fact, the best one (So far) and it’s great to see a low budget Australian horror film prove what the big dumb commercialized American hybrids are failing to deliver. But at the same time, I am comparing it to the likes of As Above So Below, Oculus, Ouija and Annabelle, which doesn’t say a lot. And with the Pyramid approaching, I fear the wait for a decent horror film will continue.

3/5

ANNABELLE REVIEW

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Terri-belle, more like

It was only a matter of time that a spin-off of one of the creepiest horror characters of the last decade would happen. BUT maybe they shouldn’t have bothered.

A couple begins to experience terrifying supernatural occurrences involving a vintage doll shortly after their home is invaded by satanic cultists.

Both the Insidious and Conjuring films were actually quite good.

Not hard considering the mindless entries of regurgitated jump-in-your-seat hidden footage movies that have bombarded the box office since Paranormal Activity.

They weren’t perfect but they attempted to resurrect that old school haunted house feel and tell an actual story.

The Annabelle doll was the creepiest thing for me in The Conjuring. That face. Shudder. And so we have a spin-off . . . Hollywood milking another cash cow.

Unfortunately the story was flat, predictable and dull. It relied on incredibly loud music and lazy “jump bits” to keep you interested.

The story of Annabelle’s origins were briefly glazed over in The Conjuring but that was still creepier than the story we got in this one.

I mean, really? The plot line was taken from Child’s Play. A demonic cult member possessing a dodgy looking doll. Boring and unoriginal.

Annabelle Wallis (Ironic her name’s the name of . . . Yeah, moving on) delivered a solid performance and certainly carried the film. That also explained her absence from the excellent BBC crime drama Peaky Blinders. It was lucky that there was a likeable lead or this would have been a complete write off.

My main issue was that the scares were so predictable. The film felt like it was going through the motions.

You could tick off a checklist of clichéd horror moments. Something will run past . . . NOW. The creepy baby mobile will start to move . . . NOW. If not for the massive cinema speakers and the grandiose musical score of Joseph Bishara, I would have barely flinched.

It seemed to mesh Child’s Play with Rosemary’s Baby. On paper, perfect. But it’s execution? Meh.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there were a couple of moments (for all my cynicism) that caught me off guard. Hell, there were even actual moments of suspense.

An elongated elevator sequence had me quivering behind my hands as the doors refused to close. The ever-growing threat of something about to strike.

That was until . . . the doors kept opening and closing for the next two or three minutes, killing any tension or patience.

The final 20 minutes finally got going BUT it just wasn’t enough.

Ward Horton was so stocky and wooden. I couldn’t care what happened to his character. And that was the problem, the supporting characters were so cliched and one dimensional.

All the bad stuff would (Surprise, surprise!) happen at night. Leaving us with shoddy acting and mindless dialogue during the day sequences. Bar one crazy kitchen encounter.

Considering the running time was 99 minutes, it felt a whole lot longer.

Alfre Woodard (12 Years A Slave) and Tony Amendola (Once Upon A Time) had perfect opportunities to take the stage but their characters were so pointless and unnecessary. Save a “twist” in the closing moments.

A twist that I called so early on that I could feel my ever-thinning patience fading to nothing.

Annabelle herself was delightfully demonic. I just wish they had made more of the doll. You know, the very object that the film was supposed to be about?!

Playing on that Child’s Play vibe with the doll moving or doing something. Not the “supernatural force” around her.

For every dark moment, I felt more could have been made. The writers could have done so much more with the premise.  BUT they just played it safe. The ol’ “Well it worked with the others” spiel.

I think this film needs to be exorcised and possessed with a better cast and story line.

I don’t know what scared me more the fact it was made or the fact it made money.

2/5 for me.