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Non-Review Review: The Conjuring 2

The Conjuring 2 is effectively a tentpole horror.

It is very much a horror film, with James Wan demonstrating all the skill and technique that he had honed over years working in the genre. There some wonderful slow pans and creepy camera movements that emphasise negative space, some very effective use of timing and mounting dread, and a palpable sense of menace. There are jump scares and slow scares, and enough false alarms to keep the audience on the edge of their seats. The Conjuring 2 is in many ways an old-school archetypal horror film.

He ain't afraid of no ghost...

He ain’t afraid of no ghost…

However, there is something interesting happening in the background. The Conjuring 2 might have all the basic ingredients of a horror movie, but they are assembled in the style of a tentpole blockbuster. To be fair, the big summer release date is a bit of a clue, as is the climax that features a sweeping race-against-time as the heroes try to desperately make it back from the train station. Indeed, The Conjuring already launched something of a shared horror universe with the spin-off Annabelle.

In some respects, The Conjuring 2 feels like something of a mash-up, reflecting contemporary pop culture’s fascination with mashing existing concepts together to form intriguing cocktails. What is really surprising about the film is how well it works.

"I'm sorry, you wouldn't happen to be able to direct me to the Marilyn Manson concert, would you?"

“I’m sorry, you wouldn’t happen to be able to direct me to the Marilyn Manson concert, would you?”

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Non-Review Review: The Conjuring

The Conjuring feels like a culmination of the nostalgia trip that we’ve seen with recent horrors like Insidious or Sinister, a conscious attempt to move away from the gore-laiden or found-footage-heavy approach to contemporary horror. Indeed, The Conjuring owes a fairly sizeable debt to director James Wan’s previous horror effort, Sinister. Not only does the film inherit leading man Patrick Wilson, it also follows roughly the same structure, right down to “paranormal investigators explore the house in a briefly humourous interlude.”

However, The Conjuring flows a lot easier than Insidious and is spared the third-act problems that plagued Sinister. The film is stronger for the honesty of its nostalgia. Even the title card is rendered in a font that looks like it could have been used for a forgotten seventies possession horror. The Conjuring doesn’t really push the boat out, and there’s nothing that will startle hardcore horror veterans, but there’s a very clear skill in its construction, an honesty to its affection and a sincerity to its charm that helps the film rise above so many contemporary horrors.

They ain't afraid of no ghosts...

They ain’t afraid of no ghosts…

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Non-Review Review: Safe House

Safe House is a perfectly fine international thriller, which manages to effectively capture the look and feel of its setting in South Africa. Light on plot and characterisation, but heavy on action and atmosphere, Safe House isn’t necessarily required viewing. In fact, it has a great deal of difficulty convincing the audience to emotionally invest in either of the two lead characters. Still, director Daniel Espinosa keeps things ticking over with a workman-like efficiency on a simple plot and Denzel Washington is as charming a leading man as ever.

Safe as houses…

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