In a recent featurette, covered here via Bloody Disgusting, the cast and crew of the upcoming horror film The Conjuring 2 discuss director James Wan and his “redefining” of the horror genre. While I think redefining is a stretch (admittedly, cinema is “redefined” in hindsight in many cases), the 2-minute video shows interesting insight into Wan and his process.
While I brushed off The Conjuring 2 after its second trailer, which depicted the film as another of the many cheap scare horror films of this generation of the genre, I am now interested in seeing how well the film lives up to the words of the creatives behind it.
The featurette describes Wan as a director who is attempting to bring respect to the horror genre. I recently published an article describing the cliches of horror and how best to remedy such cliches to make for a “redefined” genre. While my article was trying harder to be cheeky than actually fix any problems, I still find the horror genre in serious decline, where only a few horror films stand out each year specifically for their ability to break from the norm. Even if these standout films won’t hold up years down the line, they are so popular in horror circles because fans are eager to grasp at any possible film that will break the cycle of horrible horror films that studios churn out for the sake of profit.
The Conjuring was a surprising success, and it was fairly scary (without diving too much into cheap scare tactics or cliches). Wan has proven his ability to direct horror up to this point. The question is whether The Conjuring 2 will live up to the hype that Wan and co. have set for it.
For a single horror film to garner respect for the studio horror industry is a lofty task for a director to set for himself. If anyone working today can do it, however, it is Wan. But this is both a good and a bad thing. Wan has the ability to do it because he already has sway with the studios. He is a proven box office success. This means that he has already adhered, to some degree, to the cliches that dominate the genre. While he has used these to his advantage for the most part, it is hard to believe that this studio horror sequel will truly bring anything new to the table in the horror genre.
I could be wrong, of course, and if I am it’s egg on my face. To be fair, I thought the first trailer to The Conjuring 2 was very effective. The ability to conjure (apologies for the pun) dread and suspense seemed present and crafted with an attentive eye. But the second trailer expanded the footage to show jump scares and loud noises that go bump in the night, all without the dread and suspense that is so present in the first trailer. The film could be either or, and this is why I am uncertain about Wan living up to his comments.
James Wan knows how to handle the horror genre as it exists today. He understands the expectations of the genre, and uses those expectations to deliver scares without being exploitative or cheap in his delivery. In short: he cares about his work. The Conjuring 2, hopefully, will deliver something more akin to the first trailer than the second trailer. Then again, I may be too critical of this sequel situation. Horror movies bother me nowadays. They simply aren’t good, and when they are many people dismiss them as not horror on account of them not adhering to the cheap scare tactics that are now commonplace in the genre.
Wan is right, people don’t respect studio horror films. Anyone recognize the name The Darkness? If you don’t, it’s because it’s a cookie-cutter horror release from a studio from a few weeks ago. If you do, you know that it’s a cookie-cutter horror release from a studio from a few weeks ago that won’t be remembered a month from now. Studio horror films exist because they will make money. They will make money because they are made on a low budget with (maybe) one relatively known name attached.
I hope The Conjuring 2 lives up to these new expectations. I hope the film scares the pants off of me without throwing things in my face for no reason. Wan says he focuses on characters, which is a great sign (horror writers/directors take note: characters make your movie. No one will be afraid if they don’t give a s**t about your protagonist). Hopefully his vision plays out on screen as it does in his interviews, because it sounds like he knows how to craft a horror sequel. And Insidious 2 shows he can do it without totally screwing it up. My fear is that the (relatively) overwhelming success of The Conjuring will make this sequel an industrialized cluster-f**k.
Here’s hoping for anything else.
What are your thoughts? Excited for The Conjuring 2? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.
As always, thanks for reading!
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—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)