Saturday, 2 July 2016

James Wan: Rewriting the Book of Horror

Lorraine and Ed Warren travel to North London to help a single mother raising four children alone in a house plagued by a malicious spirit. 


The brilliantly terrifying The Conjuring is the second highest grossing horror movie of all time. The first being: The Exorcist. This film was genuinely the best horror film I had ever seen in a long time and James Wan is in my point of view, the best director working in horror today; so I was really excited to see this second instalment. This movie makes a perfect follow-up to the original Conjuring's lesser known case. Plus, the movie starts with a certain Amityville House. Yes, THAT Amityville. Here, the Enfield Case is probably one of the best documented, most studied and most contested hauntings in existence and in British history. The real recordings of paranormal investigator Ed Warren interviewing the entity through Janet live at the end of The Conjuring 2 and it's difficult not to let chills run down your spine. Nonetheless, director James Wan offers its potential fans a helping of reinsurance to go along with the fear. If there are ghosts and demons out there, then God must be out there as well. James Wan, who directed Saw and Insidious, is a horror filmmaker of such skills that even when he makes a by-the-book haunted-house story, it's easy to feel a hint of admiration for his talent beneath your tingling spine. 


Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson couple really ground the film in realism as their backstory and relationship are really touching and heartfelt. Being more than a horror movie, it's about marriage and being with somebody that understands you. The realistic family story grounds the film and makes it better than your average horror film. 


Horror lives in the unknown. It hides in abandoned asylums, in catacombs, in cabins and haunted manors. These are safe places to die. You don't want to die? Maybe don't do an Ouija Board, stay home and watch Netflix instead. Nothing can find you there. Except James Wan. Wan is a modern horror maestro who brings the fear home to you. All these events take place in the very real world, occupied by everyday people trying to get on with their life. We've all been children hiding under the duvet from whatever hid under our bed in the dark. Even now, home alone on a rainy day, we've sat on our couch and wondered what creaked the floorboards in the seemingly empty room next to us. Wan's fear construction is effortless, his best moments lie in the silence between scares.   


He also has a sense of the audience: of their rhythm and pulse, of how to manipulate a moment so that he's practically controlling your breathing. He became a master of THE face. He must have a card in his office reading:"All you need to make a hit horror film is one truly awful face!". THAT face. The face that's staring through the window. Staring through the dark. The face that's coming to get you eventually. James Wan again proves with this film that he knows how to use a jump scare. Those are meant to get you. This man knows how to built tension until it feels insurmountable. He's also a wizard of timing, i-e he toys with us by throwing so routinely unsettling images at us, like, let's say a toy firetruck that starts to move ion its own. Then, letting that omen menace pass at which point the movie will simply pause, stopping dead in its tracks. It's right there, in the middle of that storm of quiet, that our anxiety starts to rush in. Finally, it's truly the craft, performances and the writing that make this film a billion years ahead of all films of its kind, out right now. This film is really good. It's scary, suspenseful, the tension is real and a lot of that is due to a brilliant cinematography. 


Overall, James Wan knows his craft. And all he has to do to bring you true horror is take you home, where you think you're safe from harm. Sweet, sweet dreams.

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