Sunday, March 2, 2014

Movies of 2013, Horror, pt1

            These were the good horror movies.

The Conjuring, or "Based on actual events my ass."
Overall: 7/10
I look forward to the inevitable franchise this spawns.
            James Wan is a skilled director who can frame a shot, pace a scene, and evoke performances from actors.  Patrick Wilson is an underappreciated actor who has been in a lot of really good stuff, he yells with real conviction, and actually looks concerned when a situation calls for concern... You would think that such a skill would common with actors, but for some reason the horror genre is mostly the dredges of movie production (perhaps romantic comedies are worse off, but not by much).
            "The Conjuring" is an elaborate story by a married couple of charlatans, the Warrens, who worked as ghost hunters and paranormal investigators for several decades.  They are notorious for making up "The Amityville Horror".
            Thankfully this film takes "realism" or any hope of committing to the "real" story and locks those uninteresting things in its creepy basement and commences to beat your sense of, "I could see that happening" with a truncheon.  Instead they opt to just tell an engaging story plotted out really well.
            Exposition is woven into the narrative with clues at the start whose intrigue is satisfied as the story progresses... You know, like a mystery story should.  Shocking, someone managed to write something that doesn't just tell you what is happening, nor do they fail to find out or fail to act on what they already know.
            I should also point out the good acting from Vera Farmiga and Lili Taylor (who convincingly looks terrified).
            There are scenes in this that are absolutely bone chilling especially with the quasi hide and seek game featured prominently in the trailers.  Simple things, that makes my skin goosepimply as I write this in the quiet of late hours.  One of the better films I saw this year.

Insidious: Chapter 2, or "There are like 3 or 4 movies that the writer and director must have been watching to assemble this thing."
Overall: 8/10
And I look forward to the continuing adventures of the heroes in this movie.
            See the opening paragraph under "The Conjuring"?  Repeat that for the opening here and add in how this is the best sequel to a horror film I have ever seen.
            The first "Insidious" was a fantastically paced movie with numerous scenes that were tense, creepy, and visually very pretty.  This movie weaves its narrative into the previous film damn near flawlessly, making its own additions to the mythos and using simple behind the scenes production decisions to build entire plot lines around.  There is little neck tingling stuff and big shocking stuff.  It is a fun movie.
            What is more this thing apes stuff from other really good movies and blends them in.  There is stuff from "The Shining" and "Silence of the Lambs" that make the central antagonist just fascinating.  They also, through use of established supernatural elements explore back through time creating a very interesting way of doing flashbacks.  They create a story reason for why the characters are watching the past... It is like in "Dredd" when they create a drug that slows down time, so that they can shoot some actions in slow motion and pretty and it makes sense in the narrative.  Excellent, excellent work.
            There is only one complaint that I can point to in the technical department: they dub over an actress in the opening scenes of the movie with the voice of a much older actress.  I have no idea why, I knew which character the actress was supposed to be a younger iteration of without the additional audio clue.  That starts the movie off on a bad foot for me, but unless you are the type of person who would notice and care about those sorts of things (like me) then I doubt you will care.  As far as story is concerned, I don't really care for how they ultimately resolve the issues of Patrick Wilson's character and his son, played by Ty Simpkins (who did a good job), but that really wouldn't matter to most people as their story is pretty much over with.

            Also, good job on the part of Rose Byrne.  A good portion of the movie is her moving around the house and looking like she is going nuts.
            So those factors kept this from being a truly great movie, but I would definitely put it in the top 10 (maybe the top 5) of the year.  Watch it back to back with the original and you probably wouldn't notice that they were produced nearly 3 years apart (the kid actors aged I suppose).  I am probably being too hard on this movie, and I definitely feel it is not getting enough credit from critics and audiences that said it was not as scary as the first one.  I thought it was more scary because the antagonist is a ghost rather than a demon, and ghosts get to have back stories and motivations that inform their actions and can serve as stand ins for deeper and darker subject matter than a demon, which by definition is evil for its own sake.

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