Welcome to The Last Horror Blog, a biweekly column on all things horror.
The Conjuring 2 plot revealed? – Having raked in over $100 million at the box office, it’s safe to say we’re getting a sequel to The Conjuring. In fact, we may very well get an entire franchise of films based on the adventures of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren at this point.
While the first film hints at a sequel covering the infamous Amityville investigation, a tipster reports that Lorraine Warren has revealed that the next film will likely focus on another case they covered – one involving two sisters in England who may or may not have been possessed. Warren cites it as one of the scariest investigations of the duo’s career – which means it should make a great movie even if none of it really happened.
Exorcist-based TV series rises from the dead – With Psycho and Silence of the Lambs making successful transitions from the big screen to the smaller one, this seems like as good a time as any for an attempt to revive the idea of a television series based on William Friedkin and William Peter Blatty’s classic possession film The Exorcist.
Morgan Creek is currently shopping a revamped take on the premise (written by Jeremy Slater and different than the one that made the rounds last year), and several broadcast and cable networks are expressing interest. Could this finally lead to a series based on one of the best horror films of all time? We'll keep you posted…
Soska Sisters Helming See No Evil Sequel – In perhaps the oddest horror news ever, American Mary directors Jen and Sylvia Soska have been hired to direct a sequel to 2006’s See No Evil.
As you may recall, the dreadful original film was the first WWE film production, starring wrestler Kane as Jacob Goodnight – a killer who stalks a group of juvenile delinquents through an abandoned hotel. Few people saw it (as the $19 million in box office attests), but apparently the WWE wants to make a follow up.
The new film will find Goodnight rising from his morgue gurney to stalk a batch of medical students. So basically, it’s the same film, just with a new locale and group of victims. I’d be completely dismissive of this, but I’m curious to see what the Soskas do with this project. It’s certainly an odd choice for a third effort.
Haunter trailer debuts – I’ve been a Vincenzo Natali fan since the first time I saw Cube, so I’m intrigued by this trailer for his latest genre offering – a haunted-house flick entitled Haunter.
Abigail Breslin stars “as a young girl who must unravel a decades-old mystery to save her family in this terrifying haunted-house thriller.” Looks decent.
Filmmaker James Wan has had an interesting career path – the director, who helped give rise to the popular “torture porn” subgenre with his work on the original Saw (a film that is at least somewhat unfairly tagged with that moniker, but that’s a discussion for another day), has spent the capital earned through that success making a series of traditional chillers instead of gory fight flicks.
From Dead Silence to Insidious and now with The Conjuring, Wan has demonstrated a genuine affinity for the classic tropes of the genre – namely the haunted house and ghost story. With his third effort in this particular arena, this summer’s The Conjuring, the filmmaker has really come into his own as one of the premiere practitioners of the craft. Simply put, The Conjuring is a scary and engaging horror film that instantly takes a place in the pantheon of classic haunted-house films.
This is no small feat, because we’ve reached a point of critical mass with these sorts of ghost stories. From Paranormal Activity to the countless “reality” ghost-hunter shows, to films like A Haunting in Connecticut and the Amityville Horror remake, we’ve certainly not lacked for stories about seemingly innocent abodes hiding supernatural menaces. It’s to Wan’s credit that he takes a subgenre we’ve become so intimately familiar with and somehow makes it all not only seem fresh – but scary too. Watching the film is a bit like watching a really good magician pull off a magic trick – you might know what’s coming, but when done with style and grace, the trick still amazes you anyway.
The film follows the real-life Perron family, who in 1971 buy a house in the country. Mom (Lili Taylor) and Dad (Ron Livingston) and their five daughters move in – and before they’ve unpacked the china, strange things are happening. These events escalate until Taylor’s character seeks professional help, in the form of noted “demonologists” Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga). The Warrens come in and immediately realize something is amiss and do their best to protect the family from the demonic presence hell-bent on destroying them.
Generally speaking, I’m not a giant fan of the “based on true events” haunted-house stories. I was particularly skeptical about The Conjuring because of the Warrens’ involvement (they were intimately involved at Amityville as well, and always struck me as kooks at best, and shameless opportunists at worst), but Wan and the casting department picked the perfect performers to portray the ghost hunters in the film. Farmiga and Wilson bring a genuine humanity to these characters and that ultimately won me over. I’m not sure that the real Warrens (Ed has passed away, Lorraine has a “blink and you’ll miss it” cameo in the audience of a lecture scene in the film) were anything like this, but it works perfectly in the film. You cannot dislike this Ed and Lorraine Warren even if you think what they do is a load of bunk.
The same goes for the Perrons. Livingston and Taylor are completely believable as a family out of their element. Their daughters are charming and adorable. As an audience, we start to feel genuine fear and concern about what’s going to happen to these people – and that’s the real key to making a terrifying film. If we don’t care about the Perrons – and the Warrens, too – then The Conjuring falls flat no matter how many ghostly apparitions and jump scares Wan throws at us.
And man, does he throw a lot of creepy things at the viewer by the time it’s all said and done. There’s really nothing in The Conjuring that fans of these kinds of films haven’t seen before – from whispered voices to slamming doors to more physical manifestations of evil – but Wan’s sense of pacing is superb. The Conjuring lulls you into this false sense of security early on – those first few scares are creepy, but they’re also familiar, leading you to think “I know what you’re up to, movie – and I’m ready for it.” The beauty of The Conjuring is once again like that magician’s trick – you know the rabbit is going to come out of the hat, but no matter how hard you look for the trick, it still surprises and delights. The final act, in particular, is really quite intense and powerful. Lili Taylor, Wilson and Farmiga give it their all and the film works all the better because of it.
Having grossed over $100 million in a crowded summer box office season (a huge haul for a horror flick – which rarely get such prestigious opening weekends), it’s safe to say that we’ll be seeing more of Ed and Lorraine Warren’s adventures in a sequel. While this installment teases a trip to Amityville, it appears as though Lorraine Warren has hinted at a different case serving as a basis for the next installment. At this point, I don’t care what story they tell – if Wan and crew can make another film like The Conjuring, I’ll be in line on day one.
Horror on the Horizon
After several weeks with high-profile horror films landing in theaters, things calm down considerably. There’s nary a ghoul nor ghost to be found haunting most multiplexes for the next few weeks, but if you’re lucky you might catch Jug Face in its extremely limited release starting tomorrow.
Things aren’t a whole lot brighter on the homefront, either.
Hatchet III and House of Seven Corpses are your highlights on the week of August 13, while several Full Moon (Subspecies, Castle Freak and The Pit and the Pendulum) join a trio of the late Jess Franco’s titles (Virgin Among the Living Dead, Nightmares Come at Night and The Awful Dr. Orloff) on starting on August 20.