Quick-Thoughts: The Conjuring 3

Regardless, I still want a water-bed.

This may be the best Conjuring film in terms of lighting/coloring (as long as it isn’t a daytime shot) and Michael Chaves can mime James Wan’s style all he wants while even surprisingly adding to it with a few instances of mild creativity, but it’s not enough to save the biggest snooze-fest of 2021 thus far. The biggest offense that I can claim when it comes to The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is that it completely eradicates a potential-driven premise that smartly sets itself up from being a redundancy within the confines of its previous two entries only for it to seemingly do everything in its path to not evolve this premise into something remotely engaging, transfiguring into exactly what it initially sought out to not become. Mark Kermode delivered one of my new favorite reviewer quotes not long ago when he went over Zack Snyder’s Justice League, calling it “competently boring”, and that description very much applies to how I felt about this third Conjuring installment. It’s not too convoluted, but more importantly, however, it’s just dead air, a walking corpse — excuse my cheesy wording, but that sort of vocabulary is in spirit of the run-of-the-mill movie we have under speculation here! There’s just not a whole lot to say about it that hasn’t already been said about countless other horror stinkers alike!

And yeah, the twist this time around is goofy as hell, and the movie going full Interstellar (2014) “love conquers all” with that tiresome mind-control cliché certainly ended up being the killing points that ruined the climax for me. I swear though, circumstances such as this really get me thinking about how these r-rated Conjuring movies are slowly becoming more and more like Scooby-Doo episodes. But… now that I mention it, if they had compacted this storyline into a tight 70-minutes, toned its carnage down a little bit, ultimately making it into some kind of cartoon special for that iconic children’s franchise, it probably would’ve ended up being a better experience. Awe shucks! Why didn’t that happen instead???

Verdict: D+

2021 Ranked

“The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It” is now playing in theaters and available to stream on HBO Max.

Quick-Thoughts: James Wan’s The Conjuring 2 (2016)

Warning: Spoilers Ahead • 2nd Viewing

The most shocking thing though is that The Conjuring 2 really is an improvement upon its predecessor… and then that finale happens. 

I forgot how bitchin’ the opening of this film is, with Lorraine mimicking a possessed father-killer through her Professor-X superpowers; can’t forget about the whole one-take conversation between Ed and Bill Wilkins too; they’re probably the two highlight scenes of the film for me! Anyways, all of Wan’s usual camera-tricks as mentioned in my review of the first Conjuring have very much been applied to this sequel, so a big 👍s-up to that, but what I truly believe is the real strong-point of this second installment actually has to do with something for which was my biggest drawback of the original: the thematic relevancy. Not only is the Hodgson family fleshed-out to quite the substantial rate in The Conjuring 2 in greater comparison to the Perron family, but there’s a substantial amount of emotional gravity to how they go about the situation that lacked in the original. 

I appreciate how this sequel delves into the concept of how pivotal it is to be positive during moments of crisis, or how demanding it is to psychologically condition ourselves into throwing fears under the bus by understanding their childish intentions, therefore, not letting them become effective in definition, and while this characteristic of the second Conjuring may have been executed a bit rudimentarily, it’s undoubtedly competent enough to be persuasive given the heftier number of times the film treats us with scenes to really hammer it in. 

However, I do somewhat dislike how the writers attempted to weave Ed and Lorraine into these themes, especially when we depart into the third act. There’s something so damn exhausting about the whole pre-vision to a destined tragedy cliché (Revenge of the Sith (2005) moment) that gets on my nerves when it’s clearly there just to upset the main characters with confrontational affections of love for which you think they would’ve felt beforehand naturally (without the ridiculous Nun visions) after so many years of ghostbusting and after LITERALLY the events of the first Conjuring. Pathos ain’t easy to write, man, and the climax of The Conjuring 2 abuses it to an absolute bloody pulp — shoutout to those ridiculous closing doors. Don’t even get me started on how the film decides to furthermore go down the kids’-movie-familiar “togetherness is key” route by its ending; a big yikes to whoever wrote that in! 

But holy unholy, can we talk about how the issue to this entire story gets resolved? The dropped, concurring video tapes thing is one thing, and I won’t even get into Wilkin’s last-minute necessity of knowledge, but are you telling me that the Nun’s one weakness (which ends up lazily being not only a weakness, but the conclusive defeat of it) is calling her by her name? So why in the hell would the Nun tell you her name in the first place, for which she does to Lorraine who she’s trying to traumatize and win control over? Granted, I guess the Nun possibly could’ve not known this information herself — then again though, how would Wilkin’s know it if not from the Nun? — but don’t you think it’s a tad convenient too that the Nun happened to make Lorraine write her name in the Bible that she then also happened to carry all the way to England (a decimated Bible too…) just to later on find out about its crucial piece of information? Also, we’re only into the second entry of this franchise (not counting the spin-offs) and I already loathe how almost every scare is starting to present death as an open option, but always ends up just being the demon simply dicking around long enough for someone to save them, ultimately draining the intensity out from me every time it happens; it kind of makes me appreciate the original more, where death never felt entirely viable until the later possession of the mother and the disclosure of the information on the dead family’s past. Well, unless you were a dog. 

I’ll end off on a peachier note, however, by speaking on behalf of another theme that I thought separated itself from its predecessor in an admirable manner. The Conjuring 2 seems quite interested in how people deduced unusual real-life stories during this era through the coexisting balance of religious belief and scientific rationality, and how even the supposedly more intellectual people who were opposed to superstition were just as desperate to believe themselves as were the ones who were convinced of being haunted or possessed whether it was all in their heads or in their houses. The film even suggests that a place of faith (the church) needs evidence, as well, in order to believe in modern incidents; it’s just the evolved human behavior of today. The film kind of uses stereotypical characters to stir these clashes into play, sure, but I’m at least glad it’s there? But, in truth, it does put us into that mindset of a time frame during Amityville and countless debunked hoaxes that made headlines where even the paranormal hunters/believers themselves had to contemplate whether a possible faker was worth their time — there’s more ghostbusting out there to be ghostbusted! — or if maybe their effort was still warranted regardless just in case there really was something supernatural in the presence of even little signs; myth, until proven completely guilty, cannot and should not be denied to the fullest.

In all honesty, Wan’s follow-up feels more like a straight-shooting drama than a straight-shooting horror flick, which encourages some great debate as to if The Conjuring 1 or 2 is the superior entry. Personally, I think this sequel genuinely had the potential to outdo what came before it, but the overstuffed writing ideas, with some meaty and others corny, essentially led to my choosing of side. This sequel could’ve been a From Russia With Love (1964) or an Empire Strikes Back (1980) ordeal given some of the material it’s working with, seriously.

The Crooked Man design was sublime though. So unnatural! 👌

Verdict: C+

“The Conjuring 2” is now available to stream on HBO Max and Netflix.

Quick-Thoughts: James Wan’s The Conjuring (2013)

2nd Viewing

Will need to conjure up the need to sleep tonight.

Gotta hand it to a horror director who isn’t afraid to shift visual perspective from time to time, whether that be in his standard frame collaging, smooth tracking shots, intimately close handheld camerawork (centered or panned), timid point-of-views, old-fashioned slow zoom-ins, or classic spin tricks. I’ve always really admired the first half of the film more than anything, given that the scares aren’t immediate, but rather teased, and that only makes the film more engaging as it goes along and progressively closes in on those blow-out frights. Could one argue, however, that at the end of the day what Wan has done here is simply reintroduce one cliché horror trope after the other ranging from troll-y doors to suicidal birds, but done with a more careful precision we don’t see too frequently? Absolutely, but maybe that’s just the goal of The Conjuring: to reattempt the classic Haunted House story with almost all its trademarks combined, yet redone to a decent effect as opposed to the genre’s majority. 

Nonetheless, this has been a pet peeve of mine when it comes to The Conjuring for quite some time, but I wish Wan would’ve showed the spirits/demons from afar more often, because when they’re only barely in plain view they look so anomalously upsetting, but up-close, the makeup is kind of hilariously obvious that it takes me completely out? The emotional aspect of this film is usually quite deadbeat for me, as well; the emphasis on motherhood and fear of loss could’ve been expanded on beyond Wan’s one-note, checkmark lifetime-drama lines. The plot writing gets a bit janky towards the climax too, depending on an excessive amount of timely abruptness and some arc circumstances that were only lightly touched on previously in the film.

Anyways though, The Conjuring still holds up to how I initially thought of it either way. Thank you too James Wan for using mostly jump scares that aren’t followed by an unnatural score sound, well, at least in the first half of your movie. Ya got me nearly every time with them. 

Verdict: B-

“The Conjuring” is now available to stream on HBO Max and Netflix.

Cruella: A Fashionable Yet Predictable Experience

Superman’s disguise just got demoted.

I imagine “Craig Gillespie” is what happens when you base your entire directorial aesthetic off of Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas (1990) — the spacious, long-take panning/dollying and the dad-fueled, gen-x classic rock soundtrack; it’s all down to the bone! — and while that doesn’t necessarily insinuate as a negative for me if I, Tonya (2017) proved to us anything, there usually needs to be some diverting bite in the story to compliment such an attractive style. But therein lies the major difference between Gillespie’s compelling Harding drama and his prequel to Disney’s infamous puppy-slayer: Cruella accentuates one of the most shamelessly stereotype-driven stories I’ve seen in a VERY LONG time, which for me corresponds to a beyond offensive and tiring experience. 

If the 134-minute runtime wasn’t enough to make this heinously unoriginal sap-opera feel any longer than it warrants to be, the initiating 40 minutes of it that deliberately exposes every formulaic twist-and-turn to come with pronounced hints certainly won’t make it feel any quicker. Completely obsessed too with lineage being an integral explanation of character and unconvincing, overnight transformations in arc revelations like the modern Disney template absolutely gobbles in, I genuinely wanted this movie to end the more and more it went on so I could avoid the next cringy, predictable reveal that this film thought its audience could possibly fall for. Oh, and if you’re looking for a prequel that connects the dots between this and the 101 Dalmatians (1961) timeline when it comes to Cruella de Vil’s complexion, this film will only further contradict your understanding of her character in replacement for the trendy new “villain-turned-sympathetic-anti-hero” hogwash. Hollywood is progressively losing their way thinking that we need to be emotionally manipulated in order to simply understand where an antagonist is coming from or to simply be engaged with their backstory. 

The dress game here was absolutely on point though; I f**king L-O-V-E-D whenever this movie just decided to be a momentary fashion show! Seems to me that the costume and set designers of Cruella deserve to have their talents put into a much better narrative! 

Verdict: D+

2021 Ranked

“Cruella” is now playing in theaters and available to purchase on Disney+.

Quick-Thoughts: 101 Dalmatians (1961)

101 (minus 90) thoughts I had after watching this movie:

  • Growing up on a ton of classic Disney animal crap, I’m surprised I was never raised on 101 Dalmatians, but here I am, experiencing a piece of my childhood that could’ve been.
  • Aweee, Patch and Rolly remind me of two of my own little babies. 🐶🐶
  • So these people are supposedly in crippling financial debt, yet they can still afford their maid? I don’t know man, seems like we have an imposter among us. 
  • Okay, but are the dogs bilingual in this universe? Like, they clearly communicate with one another through barking, and one of them even translates it into English for another dog, but then they also speak just direct English to each other too? Is barking just like a way to speak English from a farther distance or something? Hmm… bloody “show-offs” is all I’m getting from this. 
  • Is it just me or is 🎶 Cruella De Vil, CRUella De Vil, if she doesn’t scare you, no evil thing will! 🎶 the inception of all Tim Burton characters to come? 
  • I have no idea what Roger was doing to that puppy to get him to come back to life — s**t wasn’t CPR that’s for sure — but whatever it was, I have a gut feeling that I shouldn’t be okay with it. 
  • Shoutout to IKEA by the way for building Cruella’s entire house. 
  • Also, I don’t know about you fellas, but Prissy definitely ain’t a dog. Bitch looks like she just came strutting straight out of a Dr. Seuss book. 
  • Fury Road’s got nothin’ on this film’s finale; gonna be real. 
  • I don’t know fellas, black and white coats do be looking kinda fire to me sometimes. JK? 
  • As a hopeless artist too though, where can I get a wingman dog like Pongo and ASAP?

Verdict: B-

“101 Dalmatians” is now available to stream on Disney+.

Quick-Thoughts: Wes Craven’s Scream 4 (2011)

I never thought I would say this in my entire f**king life, but Halloween: Resurrection did it first.

Honestly, Scream 4 has the most commendable twist out of all the sequels. There’s at least something worthwhile in Wes Craven’s attempt to speak on behalf of both the media and the entertainment industry’s modern obsession with wanting to relive the past success (whether misunderstood or not) of others, therefore influencing the younger generation in burdening ways.

Howbeit, I’m a little disheartened though that this ended up being Wes Craven’s final movie. If you’re familiar with the Scream franchise up until this point, you may know about how it tends to stumble into hypocrisies at times, considering each one strives to be a self-aware take on its genre yet can’t help but fall into the formula it passive-aggressively demeans and celebrates.

Well, the final one takes it to a whole other level… for worse.

I imagine this fourth installment could be considered Craven’s “Michael Haneke” moment where he takes us through over an hour of almost unbearably boring retread just to make a statement on the dull experience that we had by its conclusion. This entire movie basically works as one quirky experiment, one where the movie is mostly the pointless, highly inferior remake-sequel hybrid for which many will hate until *suddenly* it reveals its true colors during a marginal moment of exposition. Yet, that risky elongation of meta to me is not enough to justify the lack of entertainment the build-up of this sequel has especially when in comparison to its flamboyant predecessors, not to also mention the idealistic predictability that ensues after the big twist is revealed. Scream 4 is essentially saying that it’s allowed to be the typical, gore-crazy and visually over-saturated modern reboot because it features once again its self-aware trademark schematics to excuse the bulls**t. However, these genre tricks seem to have reached a dead end for me, as I’ve become far too traditionalized and desensitized from them after watching 3 previous films that committed similar to still care for.

Plus, this one doesn’t give me Raja Gosnell Scooby-Doo vibes so it’s automatically bottom-tier of the franchise for me. 

Verdict: D+

Wes Craven Ranked

“Scream 4” is now available to rent on Amazon Prime.

Quick-Thoughts: Wes Craven’s Scream 3 (2000)

The Scream movies give off the same vibe as the live action Scooby-Doo movies the more I think about it. Early 2000s gang, where you at?

Scream 3 has about as much insightful social commentary on pervy Hollywood execs as you would expect from a Harvey Weinstein produced motion picture. Wes Craven’s once upon a time in Hollywood resorts back to Scream 2’s subplot of corrupt media’s exploitation of real-life tragedies while hammering at the tropes of trilogy conclusions, but with the actual focus and weight of those topics as if the human embodiment of ADHD decided to draft them in one go. This movie gets kind of Halloween II (the Rick Rosenthal one, not the Rob Zombie one…) on us towards the end, as well, proving once more that this franchise is just progressively becoming everything that it had initially sought out to revert away from in the slasher genre. 

Also, here’s my impression of Dewy handling a situation in this movie:

“Shoot?”

*Looks at inanimate object.*

“Or shoot?”

*Looks at serial killer.*

“Shoot?” 

*Looks at inanimate object again.*

“Or shoot?”

*Looks at serial killer again.*

“Shoot!”

*Proceeds to shoot inanimate object with all his rounds.*

Verdict: C-

Wes Craven Ranked

“Scream 3” is now available to stream on HBO Max.

Quick-Thoughts: Wes Craven’s Scream 2 (1997)

That awkward moment when Wes Craven predicts The Haunting of Sharon Tate (2019).

I’m almost convinced that Scream 2 exists in a universe where everybody in this town besides Neve Campbell and her colleagues are psychopaths conspiring to participate in ritualizing their slow demises. I mean, why else would nobody be around every-time they’re in danger running around a ginormous college campus or crashing cars in open-view public? Like those boom-boxers especially, man; that’s right! I’ve got my eyes on you, three! 

I was so on board with this movie for its first two enjoyable acts that it pains me to say how disappointed I was by its final (and unusually long) one. Commentating on how the media and entertainment industry selfishly feeds off of tragic incidents is such a Wes Craven-esc concept for a Scream sequel that I was so interested to see where it would go, until the commentary just got abandoned for a conclusion which more so tributes classic B-rated slasher movies and even its own predecessor rather than making fun of them in non-predictable ways. It’s bloody amazing too how the characters only get dumber and dumber as the film goes along, so obviously at the expediency of having their “big” reveals stick out at the last second. I wouldn’t even have been mad if they just blatantly called out how typical slasher-esc the film started becoming once it got to the climax, but it totally overlooked how much it was indulging in the clichés that the franchise ironically strives to poke jabs at. 

Speaking of which, WOW did those twists SUCK. At first I was like, why would the killer end up just being some person we barely spent any time establishing to care enough for, and then also have the second killer (cause there always has to be a partner) be the one everybody assumed was going to be the killer from the moment they appeared on screen? And then I thought, oh, the movie is going to turn it around and call these quirky reveals “meta” or something since it works as a basic reverse-psychology subversion of our expectations, but it turns out it just genuinely thought it was being clever. LOL! 

Anyways, I hope there’s a follow-up to ‘96 Neve Campbell (titled: ‘97 NEVE CAMPBELL) since this sequel exists. If you get the reference, I love you.

Verdict: C+

Wes Craven Ranked

“Scream 2” is now available to stream on HBO Max.

A Quiet Place Part II Lives Up to its Predecessor (Misleading Title)

There are a couple things that make A Quiet Place Part II SLIGHTLY superior than its predecessor: the emphasis on evoking emotion is a bit more refrained (until that ending), the directing is marginally bolder, and Cillian Murphy plays the John Krasinski role better than, well, John Krasinski had. But, if you also took part in the minority crowd of A Quiet Place (2018)’s soy-boy haters like the prude writing this review, the sequel is definitely not going to win you over, as it falls into the exact same traps that made the original appear so phony. 

Whether it’s breaking the rules that it had established in Part I, concocting last minute saves to continuously remind us that our victims are glaringly plot-protected by the script, or forcing characters to commit actions that make zero sense, as if they’ve periodically become mind-controlled by head-scratching puppet masters (the writers) finding shortcut ways to stir conflict, A Quiet Place Part II fails as a tension-getter when it comes to my personal experience with it. There’s, furthermore, no bigger significance behind this movie that could possibly justify the manipulative tricks that it pulls to broadcast its desired messages for the audience. It wants to dive into themes like unity, pessimism, and fortitude in light of apocalypse, and sometimes they actually feel earned, especially in the sequences where actors are forced to use their faces rather than their expressive voices as emotional communicators, but other times they keep pushing and pushing these notions to doubtful places within the scenario-scheming for where they seriously don’t need to go to make viewers understand or admire. The conveniencing only accumulates and progressively gets worse because of this, until it punctures itself to death by the conclusion with a belabored metaphor birthed from a series of coincidences more unfathomable than actual flesh-eating monsters landing on our soil today. The symbolism once again wants to flex its immoderate guises repeatedly in sacrifice for the level of realism that the film clearly also wants to succeed in but tonally can’t compromise with.

What I’ve gathered from these past two horror attempts is that Kransisnski is genuinely a competent director, and I want to enjoy his work in the future, but I think he needs to hire himself a solo writer before that can happen.

Verdict: C-

2021 Ranked

“A Quiet Place Part II” will be released in theaters May 28.

Change of Opinion: A Quiet Place (2018)

Warning: Spoilers Ahead • 2nd Viewing 

Whoever hammered a nail upside-down into that stairway plank must have a really twisted sense of humor.

Rarely do I have “drastic” changes when it comes to my opinion on a movie, let alone to THIS extent; I genuinely want to ask little me from 3 years ago on what I was thinking when giving this film a “B+”, but my only basis as to why that may have happened lies in my habit to get into the same hype that the majority of people had for this movie, considering the circumstances of it being shockingly directed by a beloved star of The Office and its eye-catching premise that nobody could stop talking about. But to be fair, however, I still almost like the entire first half of this movie; Kransinski slowly eases us into the lifestyle and psychological circumstances surrounding the family at hand before actually transitioning into the onslaught of conflict. Minus the royalty-free sounding soundtrack — which would’ve made this first half better without it, concentrating even more on the silent nature of the environment —, I really appreciated how the movie took its time to let us sink into a family balancing in the despair of their past while focusing on the necessity of their survival as well. But the moment when that random old guy screams is the moment when the writing for me turns to absolute s**t, abandoning and almost butchering the promise that it had initiated.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a horror movie praised to such an extent that had this many cheap and false-alarm jump scare sound effects. It’s a wonder too that this is often considered a masterful suspense builder when nearly every instance of danger is caused by something so inconceivably arbitrary that I’m taken out of its realism from the moment they start. The disappointing part is that there are knack ideas of intensity lurking at hand here, whether that be a mother forced to give birth while simultaneously being hunted or children being swallowed by a silo of corn, yet it’s the actual execution of how they happen that feels contrived. But, maybe the greatest offender of the second half is how it attempts to incorporate its themes into the horror, abandoning its patience from the start with on-the-nose ways of telling the audience how characters feel or change. My least favorite scene in all of the movie is that dialogue dump where Evelyn gives her corny and out-of-place (considering the dire situation) “protect them” speech to her husband; it sounded like a compiling of unnecessary trailer lines made into a seam of familial incentive that we don’t need when a movie already spent 40 minutes establishing the main objective of Lee’s parenting ethos through mostly quiet but revealing visuals. I’ve always hated the scene as well where Lee lethargically takes his time to say “I love you” in sign language to his daughter who’s currently being attacked by one of these creatures; it’s just an unbelievably over-empathized use of pathos that derived me from any tension left of the danger that the three were currently in, and a cartoonish method of wrapping a bow around Lee’s arc that the movie had set up in its first half pretty decently.

There are only two possible reasons as to how all these terrible situations could have possibly happened all in one day and by the manner that they happened, and that is either: 1) the writers are just lazy or 2) God just REALLY hates this family for some reason.

Verdict: C-

“A Quiet Place” is now available to rent on Amazon Prime.