The Reviews Are In: The Conjuring 2

Here’s a not-so-secret secret about me: I suffer from sleep paralysis. It’s a sleep disorder that causes the sufferer to maintain consciousness while the body remains asleep, causing temporary immobility. Sounds awful, right? It is. But that’s not the worst part. The worst part is the hallucinations. More often than not I see a dark, menacing, vaguely human shape standing Who-Plays-Demon-Conjuring-2in the corner on my room. Or, if I’m really lucky, I’ll see something waving to me from inside my closet. These experiences are the closest I’ve ever come to pure, mortal terror.

And, for the record, that’s pretty close.

The point of this story is that there is not, nor will there ever be, anything more terrifying than our own imaginations. And I further postulate that there isn’t one filmmaker working today who understands this better than James Wan, directer of The Conjuring 2. He knows how to give an audience a creaky floorboard, an empty rocking chair, and a shadowy presence looming slightly off-screen, and let their brains fill in the gaps.

This sequel to 2013’s The Conjuring (also directed by James Wan) once again stars Vera the-conjuring-2-movieFarminga and Patrick Wilson as Lorraine and Ed Warren, reputed paranormal investigators. This film, like it’s predecessor, tackles a real-life haunting, the case of the Enfield Poltergeist. In London, a single mother and her four children are terrorized by what they believe is the spirit of the previous owner of their home. Ed and Lorraine travel to England as agents of the Catholic church to determine if the haunting is legitimate.

Vera Farminga and Patrick Wilson are as groovy as ever and their onscreen romance continues to be the beating heart of the Conjuring franchise. Frances O’Connor also shines as the cockney mother at her wits end, as she and her family battle overdue rent, leaky

The Hunter. Photo by Matt Nettheim.

The Hunter. Photo by Matt Nettheim.

pipes, and the forces of darkness.

The best thing about this film is it’s restraint. Wan has a talent for building tension and then letting it diffuse, only to have it build again. It’s terrifying, but not relentlessly so. The audience gets the chance to recover from a scare before another one gets thrown at them.

I think it’s safe to say that the Conjuring franchise is horror for people who don’t like horror. These movies aren’t crude, or gory, or campy. They’re thoughtful and poignant and frequently so scary that half of your time will be spent actively trying to not crap yourself. You know, if that’s something you’re into.

Whitney Weldon 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Fangirly Show: Episode #3 Fangirling Over Halloween

With an early episode just in time for Halloween, Whitney and Ellen dish on all of their favorite spooky pop culture, including what they put on their Halloween playlists, the first movie to scare their socks off, and who from the horror villain gallery they would prefer to be their murderer.  Plus, Whitney throws out some crazy hypotheticals in a Halloween themed game of Would You Rather!

*NOTE: Listen for the PS at the end of the episode.
You can listen and subscribe HERE on iTunes or you can go HERE to listen and let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
FGHalloween

The Reviews Are In: Crimson Peak

maxresdefaultOf any genre, horror is the hardest to get right. Ask anyone who’s ever tried. It’s nearly impossible to find a subject matter that is universally horrifying, so these movies usually end up being shunted into one of many horror sub-genres: slasher, paranormal, psychological. Because of this, audiences are left to pick their poison, so to speak. So when I tell you that I’ve found a near-perfect horror movie, I invite you to take that seriously.

Which brings me to Crimson Peak. I walked into the movie with no expectations. Not low expectations, but no expectations. None. I intentionally isolated myself from any buzz surrounding this movie, so that I could walk into it fresh. CrimsonPeakChastain

It begins like any Dickensian period piece. Wealthy Edith (Mia Wasikowska) is visited by the ghost of her late mother, and
warned about the dangers of the enigmatic Crimson Peak. As the years go by, Edith forgets the warning and peruses a career as a writer. Her literary aspirations are put on hold, however, when she meets Thomas Sharpe, a titled English gentleman who, as evidenced by his dark hair and habit of lurking in shadowed corners, harbors a secret. Edith is charmed by Thomas and, to a lesser degree, his creepy sister, and agrees to marry him and join him in England. Shortly thereafter, she begins to suspect that her new family has something to hide, and takes it upon herself to figure out what it might be.

crimson_peak_stillFrom the beginning this movie cultivates a looming sense of dread. The film makes overt but effective use of color and shadow (you can distinguish the good guys from the bad guys by their hair color, fashion choices, and total amount of screen time spent having whispered conversations in the shadows). Director Guillermo del Toro took what could have been an overdone concept, Victorian ghosts and decrepit haunted houses, and gives it his own spin. The ghosts are actually terrifying, which isn’t something you see a lot anymore.

Tom Hiddleston is here doing what he does best, heating things up with his now trademark blend of sexy and sinister. Also, for anyone who cares (everyone) you do in fact get to see him naked. And let me tell you, it is just as good as advertised. Jessica Chastain also kills it (wink) as the sister and displaced lady of the house. There is so much to love about this movie, even those of us who aren’t hot for horror will eat it up.

So if you’re looking for a movie that will get you into the Halloween Spirit, look no further. Seriously. Hotel Transylvania 2 can wait for Redbox.

Whitney Weldon

The Reviews Are In: Insidious Chapter 3

lead_960Horror is a weird genre. I don’t mean weird as in, “hey, look at that guy in the Bob Hope mask stabbing people to death.” I mean, it’s hard to get right, and it’s even harder to talk about. Because a good horror movie should be a little of everything; scary, obviously, but also a little funny and sweet and dramatic and suspenseful and sad, but not so sad you feel like you’re watching a Frederico Fellini movie. The tragedy of Insidious Chapter 3 is that, in a lot of ways, its a much stronger movie than the first two installments because it manages to hit all of these notes, but is forced to live in it’s predecessors culty shadow.

Quinn Brenner (Stephanie Scott) is a high school senior who, after the death of her mother, is left to take care of her family and try to face her looming post-graduation future. In a totally reasonable act of desperation, she reaches out to the spirit of her mom, but what she gets instead is a spectral stalker who wants her to join his harem of girl ghost groupies.  Dermot Mulroney is here doing what Dermot Mulroney does best: playing the hapless fish-out-of-water father who is torn between disbelief and desperation as he watches his daughter get physically and emotionally mangled by something he can’t see. (It’s a specific niche, but he totally owns it). Lin Shaye is back as Elise, the medium who must travel into “the Further” to save Quinn’s soul.

Doesn’t sound super ground-breaking, right? That’s because it isn’t. Making a horror movie is like competing in the Hollywood version of Iron Chef; you’ve got to work with the ingredients (tropes) you’re given, and what makes it good is how it all comes together. In this case, there are two things that make Insidious Chapter 3 particularly watchable. The first are the crazy strong performances from Scott and Shaye. Most female driven horror films tend to veer off into a disappointing direction (re: Hellraiser, Halloween, Prom Night, ect.). And while the two female leads are victimized and exploited, this movie is mostly about two women trying to save their souls. Shaye’s Elise kicks an absurd amount of ass, and Scott’s Quinn insidious-3-shadowy-620x400manages to hit that elusive Scream Queen sweet spot: vulnerable but feisty, angsty but likeable. The male characters are good too, but they are mostly there to fill the obligatory white male quota. There’s even a moment in the movie where Elise tells one of those white males, Quinn’s narratively irrelevant younger brother, that while his presence is appreciated, it’s unnecessary.

The other thing that saves Chapter 3 from horror movie mediocrity is that it’s genuinely scary. I don’t have any problem with pop-out cheap shots (which is good since this movie has several) but there’s also underlying tension in this Insidious  that I just didn’t feel in the other two. For reasons that can’t be explained, spoiler-free, Quinn spends most of the movie bedridden or in a wheelchair, and that sense of confinement and helplessness translates into a sort of Rear Window type suspense. The result is a movie that deserves way better than to be labeled as a prequel to movies that are, in some ways, inferior.

Verdict: If you like horror, go see it. It won’t rock your world, but there are more than enough good hand-wringing moments to make up for it.

Whitney

Fangirly Exposed! : Bad Slasher Movies

We’ve all got cinematic skeletons in our closet. You know, the movies and TV shows that you desperately hope your friends and family don’t come across in the Recently Watched section of your Netflix account. My dirty little secret just happens to be… slasher movies.

I’m not even talking about the socially acceptable flicks that fall under this category, like the Scream movies, or Nightmare on Elm Street, or even Halloween and its many sequels. I’m talking about the nasty, gory, plot-less, mindless trash that your weird 30-year-old-cousin-who-still-listens-to-Creed wouldn’t watch. I recently stumbled across a revolting little gem called Shadow, in which four strangers are tortured by an inexplicably shirtless sadist in the middle of the Albanian wilderness. I watched all of that garbage. Twice.

Part of the reason I continue to feed my sick addiction is that, if you sift through the refuse long enough, you will stumble across a few that are surprisingly good. Not Oscar fodder or anything, but better than you would expect. My personal favorite is Behind the Mask: the Rise of Leslie Vernon. It’s pretty meta, so if that’s not your flavor then you might want to take a pass, but if you like self-referential horror movies then this one is totally worth your time.

There! I said it. I gotta admit, it feels good to come clean. Now excuse me, I gotta go watch some co-eds get sliced open by a psycho. A gore junkie’s work is never done.

-Whitney