JUMPSCARECUT: The Conjuring 2 (2016)

Directed by: James Wan
Cast: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Madison Wolfe, France O’Connor, Lauren Esposito

Written by Tom Sheffield

James Wan’s The Conjuring was a hit with horror fans when it released in 2013 and has since spawned a sequel (with a third film confirmed) as well as two successful spin-offs – Annabelle, of which a third film will release in 2020, and this year’s The Nun, which was based on the demonic Nun, Valak, who we meet in this entry of the Conjuring Universe. The Conjuring films are said to be based on the true case files of Ed and Lorraine Warren – paranormal investigators who were thrown into the public spotlight following their investigation at Amytiville (which the first film as based on).

The Conjuring 2 is based on the Enfield Haunting, which was a case the Warrens took in the late 70s. The Hodgson family being to experience supernatural occurrences in their home and Janet, the second eldest daughter, appears to be the spirit’s first target. The Warren’s are called in to investigate and determine whether there are supernatural forces at work or if it’s simply a hoax. Whilst investigating, Lorraine’s worst fears come true and she must discover the real truth behind the strange occurrence’s at the Hodgson residence.

Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson as Ed and Lorraine Warren are two of my favourite pieces of casting in modern horror. They both have such a fantastic chemistry on-screen and they nail every single scene they’re in – no matter situation they’re thrown in to. Imagine my delight when I heard they’re confirmed to reprise their role in the upcoming third Annabelle film, which will focus on their room full of demonic possessions.

Joseph Bishara’s score never fails to send chills up my spine, especially in Valak’s earlier scenes when she appears to Lorraine. It’s a score that stuck with me for a good few days after I first watched the film, and makes my ears prick up during every re-watch. Don Burgess’ cinematography also elevates this horror by adeptly making the most of space in the small English house. Wan and Buress create a sense of paranoia that has you constantly looking in the darkest corners of every shot and will make leave your lights on.

At the heart of this horror is a message of family unity and strength through times of uncertainty. There’s a scene where Ed sings ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love’ (and gives a corker of an Elvis impression) and, for a moment, you forget the horrors tormenting the family. The Hodgson family are all smiling and laughing and Lorraine looks on dotingly – it’s a scene that you wouldn’t expect to make the biggest impact in a horror film, but, for me, it does.

Whilst the film isn’t as much of a mystery to us as it is the Warrens or anyone outside of the Hodgson family, it delivers some genuine spine-tingling moments and is sure to pique your curiosity of what really went on in that house. I recently began reading The Demonologists – a book based on the cases of The Warrens, including Annabelle the doll, Amytiville, and Enfield.

For me, The Conjuring 2 is the strongest entry  The Conjuring Universe by a fair margin. The cinematography, score, direction, set design, and everything in between all add something a little special to this film and it still manages to give me chills no matter how many times I re-watch it.

 

Tom’s Verdict:

4-5

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I Kill Giants

Year: 2017
Directed by: Anders Walter
Cast: Madison Wolfe, Zoe Saldana, Imogen Poots, Sydney Wade

Written by Tom Sheffield

The poster for this film depicts a young girl stood hammer in hand facing a giant with the words ‘from the producer of Harry Potter’ placed at the very top. Having not seen the trailers or read anything about this film beforehand (or even the graphic novel on which this is based), you’d forgive me for expecting some massive fantasy showdown between a teenage girl and giants on a similar scale to the Harry Potter series.

What I actually got was something I wasn’t expecting, but I loved it all the more for it…

Barbara (Wolfe) isn’t like the other children at her school. Rather than sitting at home watching TV, or gossiping about boys, 12 year old Barbara is out protecting her family, and the Earth, from giants. We soon learn these ‘giants’ are Barbara’s very imaginative coping mechanism after her mother becomes ill. Sophia (Wade) is new to the school and Barbara’s imagination piques her interest from the moment they meet – but as Barbara’s grip on reality begins to slowly slip away, Sophia must help her new friend any way she can with the aid of new school psychiatrist Mrs. MollĂ© (Saldana).

Madison Wolfe is an absolute tour de force. She delivers a truly wonderful and completely captivating performance that makes her one young actress you should keep your eye on! After her impressive role as the lead in ‘The Conjuring 2’, I am positive Wolfe will become a much more familiar name over the next few years if she continues to deliver such solid performances. Imogen Poots plays Barbara’s older sister, Karen, whose suddenly thrown into a caretaker role to her two younger siblings as their mother becomes ill. Karen struggles to balance work life with her new found responsibilities, and her unappreciative siblings only add to her troubles as it becomes clear that all three of them are trying to cope with their mother’s illness in different ways. Whilst Barbara is off defending the world from giants, her brother uses his videos games as means to escape from his real life woes, and Karen does her best to keep everything feeling as normal as possible.

Zoe Saldana’s Mrs MollĂ© doesn’t get a whole lot of screen time, but Saldana, who received her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame earlier this week, brings her A-game. Mrs MollĂ© tries her best to support Barbara through therapy sessions, but it’s clear to her that Barbara’s powerful imagination is having a detrimental effect on her school and social life, and her poor attitude and disrespectful nature towards teachers and adults in general stems from the fact that she thinks everyone will be thanking her in the end. Barbara’s personality traits mean that if her character was in any other film, she’d be that character you instantly don’t like – but because you learn more about her as her story goes on, you can’t help but sympathize as we see things from Barbara’s point of view.

‘I Kill Giants’ is Anders Walters’ debut feature film, and it’s an incredibly impressive and very promising start to his career. His direction and vision for this adaptation were a great combination for this screenplay, and despite the films small budget, the CGI is still fairly impressive. Knowing the CGI was never going to match that of ‘A Monster Calls’, which features similar themes and is being heavily compared against in other reviews, Walters cleverly uses the scenery and weather to conceal some of the giants flaws. That being said, the story at hand is much bigger than the giants and the mid-quality CGI was a non issue for me because I was much more focused on Barbara throughout the whole thing.

The cinematography really captures the theme of this film, with the surroundings often being bleak and uninviting, but Barbara and Sophia inject a lot of colour into each scene in the form of their clothing. The scenes that take place inside the school and forest in particular are some of my favourite shots because they’re a great representation of Barbara’s mindset at the time – for example there’s a particular scene where Barbara is scared and the whole school fades to black around her and you can really feel how isolated, alone, and scared she feels at that point in time.

‘I Kill Giants’ is available to download today and I would highly recommend you take some time this weekend to give it a shot. I think it’s a real shame this film never got a UK cinematic release, but at least no one will see your tears as Barbara’s story unfolds. As much as you may read about this film being compared to J. A. Bayona’s ‘A Monster Calls’ , I think both films stand firmly on their own merits and if you ever have a day you just want to let some tears out, here’s the perfect double bill for you!

Tom’s Rating: 8.5/10

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