Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here. Happy Birthday to AICN HORROR which celebrates its sixth year in October! Always hoping to pass on new and exciting films for all of you ravenous readers, I have once again compiled a list counting down to my favorite horror film released since last October and covered in this here AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. Some of these films might be new to you since there isn’t a lot of horror in theaters these days. That said, there were more on this list that DID have a theatrical run than in previous years which means the horror genre does seem to be on the upswing. Some of these films have only seen the light of day on Video On Demand or simply go straight to DVD/BluRay or digital download.
As far as how I compiled this list? Well, I simply looked over my AICN HORROR columns over the last year since October 1st, 2015 (which happens to be the birthday of this little column five years ago!) and worked and reworked the list until I had 31. No real method to my special brand of madness. We’ll be counting down every day until Halloween to my favorite horror film of the year. I’ll also provide a second film suggestion at the end of each post that is worth nothing or missed being on the list by a little bit for those who can’t get enough horror.
So let’s get to it! Chime in after the article and let me know how you liked the film I chose, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, and most importantly, come up with your own list…let’s go!
THE CONJURING 2 (2016)Directed by James Wan
Written by Carey Hayes, Chad Hayes, James Wan, David Leslie Johnson
Starring Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Madison Wolfe, Frances O'Connor, Lauren Esposito, Benjamin Haigh, Patrick McAuley, Simon McBurney, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Simon Delaney, Franka Potente, Bob Adrian, Robin Atkin Downes, Steve Coulter, Abhi Sinha, Chris Royds, Sterling Jerins, Daniel Wolfe, Annie Young, Elliot Joseph, Emily Tasker, Kate Cook, Shannon Kook, Jennifer Collins, Thomas Harrison, Bonnie Aarons as the Demon Nun & Javier Botet as the Crooked Man!
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
While I often find it hard to distinguish the INSIDIOUS, SINISTER, and THE CONJURING films from one another, THE CONJURING 2 stands out as a stellar example of why these films work with audiences and why we should appreciate these films for bringing our much beloved genre of horror to the masses.
Like you, I do get frustrated with the Blumhouse brand, specifically the way most of their films feel interchangeable and are filled with the exact same type of scares. This scare a minute mode of storytelling, which gives you a moment to breathe and laugh a little before the next one makes for a fun time at the movies. The Don Music piano bangs are annoying and usually, I find my body reacting involuntarily mainly because a loud noise has come from nowhere instead of actually reacting to something I’ve seen on the screen. Still, like William Castle did long ago, Blumhouse is a studio who makes films to be seen in the theater. I prefer the slow burn films like THE WITCH and THE INVITATION, or the start to finish intensity of FURY ROAD or THE GREEN ROOM, but that type of filmmaking doesn’t come along very often and filling in the gaps are these films which seem to be keeping the horror genre alive these days so that those other films I prefer can exist. For this reason, I appreciate INSINISTONJERING ACTIVITY films that Blum built for making going to the theater fun. It’s not a resonant scare, but they are still bringing scary to the theaters.
What sets THE CONJURING 2 apart from the other films in this is that James Wan brings his A-game to every aspect of this movie. One can tell that while Wan enjoys doing films like INSIDIOUS or SAW, he loves this world he has created following Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga). Simply from the unusual and unique look Wan puts on even the smallest little shot composition, one can tell this is a film series he is deeply invested in. Wan wants to scare us and in THE CONJURING 2, while he does resort to the shock a minute accompanied with a piano bang method, these shocks look like something we really don’t see that often in horror films. While many have veered away from horror as they gain success and clout in the industry, Wan seems to love horror and continues to bring big budget thrills to a genre which often rarely has two shekels to rub together. While he does films like FAST & FURIOUS and AQUAMAN (though it looks like he’s wavering on the latter), Wan seems to always return to horror and for this, I appreciate him for it as he holds clout and makes these films look and feel like few others. Again, for that, I respect James Wan as a filmmaker for not giving in to temptation and directing that period piece or that rom com and leaving the spooks and goblins behind in the dust.
THE CONJURING 2 is a fantastic story once again pitting Ed and Lorraine against things that go bump in the night. While the first film in this series introduced us to Ed and Lorraine, this installment seems to function mainly to show why the two loved each other so much. Much of the film is focused on using the possessed family and their situation to show the strength of the love between these two people and Wilson and Farmiga do a really good job of making that believable. Their relationship is the heart of this film and Wan exploits it to the maximum as all good horror should. Wan knows that the stronger the hearty middle is, the more the audience will be when they are placed in harm’s way. This harm takes form of a house being haunted by a spirit of an old man (or at least that’s what it seems). The Warrens show up to assess whether or not there is validity to this haunting or if the young girl (played by the absolutely amazing Madison Wolfe who plays Janet and is a dead ringer for Natalie Portman circa THE PROFESSIONAL in this film)who seems to be possessed by this spirit. What they find is somewhat confusing as Elizabeth, who usually gets a reading of something supernatural going on, feels nothing, and the evidence of the haunting is sketchy.
Like many of Wan’s films in this genre (INSIDIOUS and THE CONJURING specifically) this film wobbles at the end. Wan is an expert of setting up tension and giving us scenes that feel as if we’ve never seen them before and are quivering at them for the first time (or at least the first time since childhood as Wan is an expert at conveying that childhood fear of the dark we all once had). But resolutions are his weak point, specifically as most horror films call for some kind of big, brassy ending and it never really lives up to those small tense moments that are set up in the first our and a half of the movie. Much like most comedies, when the jokes begin to slow down to make way for the story to resolve, when THE CONJURING 2 slows down in order for Ed and Lorraine to take on the spirits head on, elements of convention and clunkiness show their noggins. Another problem with the film has to do with the point of view the story is told. We know the supernatural stuff exists because we are made privy to it. The Warrens and the other skeptics investigating the case do not. So there’s this weird disconnect I felt in the third act. Wan paints himself in a corner with this film as he tries to have the best of both worlds by telling the story from the Warrens POV for most of the film, but still shows us what they do not see. This makes for a clunky story where the protagonists look stupid for not realizing what everyone else knows to be something undeniably supernatural going on. So when Lorraine and Ed leave thinking the whole thing is a hoax, I found it hard to give them credit for stupidly believing that to be true after what the audience, and not the Warrens have seen in the last hour or so.
That said, the first two hours of this film is filled with scenes you most likely haven’t seen before in horror or at least done in a way that is unique and original. Even the clichéd nun (which I hear is getting her own movie…because ANNABELLE did so well, I guess) works here as Wan puts together a scene involving a painting of the nun that will raise the hairs on the back of your neck. Wan does this over and over in the multiple scenes of the kids experiencing spooky phenomenon at night and the most memorable scene in the film as Ed interviews a possessed Janet who sits behind him out of focus in a chair. All of these scenes are the stuff which good rollercoaster horror is made and Wan is an expert at all of that.
I know that in real life, the Warrens exploited folks and used their notoriety to make quite a profit. I know that their involvement in this case depicted in THE CONJURING 2 was minimal and much of this film is more myth than fact. I also know that most likely William Wallace didn’t get into a rock throwing contest with one of his buddies and Billy the Kid and his pals didn’t get high on peyote, try to shoot a chicken, and jam to Bon Jovi tunes, but that didn’t stop me from loving BRAVEHEART and YOUNG GUNS. Sure the film tries to scare you by telling you that much of this is fact, but this is something that doesn’t bother me as there is an air of tension that looms over films that say this and it has become a Hollywood trope to twist and bend facts for maximum impact on the audience. Those who don’t like THE CONJURING 2 simply because the two characters aren’t depicted exactly the way they were in real life have a right to dismiss this film, but they’ll be missing a damn fun time at the movies.
#21 – THE CONJURING 2
#22 – THE MIND’S EYE
#23 – DARLING
#24 – SUN CHOKE
#25 – THE HALLOWS
#26 – OVER YOUR DEAD BODY
#27 – SUMMER CAMP
#28 – EMELIE
#29 – BASKIN
#30 – I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER
#31 – SOUTHBOUND
2015 #1 – THE CANAL
2014 #1 – PROXY
2013 #1 - MANIAC
2012 #1 – THE WOMAN
2011 #1 – THE LAST CIRCUS
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of AICN COMICS for over 15 years & AICN HORROR for 5. Follow Mark on the Twitters @Mark_L_Miller and on his new website collecting posts for AICN HORROR as well as all of the most recent updates on his various comic book projects on MLMillerWrites.com.
A quick plug for my own work. I have a new comic book coming out this December called THE JUNGLE BOOK HOLIDAY SPECIAL: BAGHEERA’S SECRET. It’s a one shot reteaming my original JUNGLE BOOK artist Carlos Granda and myself (the same team who created PIROUETTE) and it is available to order now via Previews order# OCT162113. I’m getting pages of this book by the day and this book looks absolutely amazing so far. Fans of jungle adventure are going to love it! Please support me by telling your local comic book store to order tons of issues of this comic! Much appreciated, folks.
Look for Johnny Destructo, Stephen Andrade, Christian DiBari, and my own ramblings about random horror films on CultPop/PoptardsGo and Ain’t It Cool on AICN HORROR’s CANNIBAL HORRORCAST Podcast every other Thursday (or so…)!