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.

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.

Quick-Thoughts: Spiral

A far superior attempt at revitalizing a franchise than 2017’s puny spar of gatekeeping a legacy’s classic trademarks before they became dated after its shine and recycle process, Spiral: From the Book of Saw, however, decides to immerse itself into modern climate in wake of conscious America’s growing dislike towards police corruption, drawing eyes on a new killer targeting cop victims. With the silliness dried out and the ironically fun convolution no longer with us, this newest entry is instead a crime thriller that takes itself QUITE seriously. To our dismay though, it doesn’t seem to have the intuitive education nor depth to truly pioneer what it wants to tackle with this refined tone. 

By no means does Chris Rock’s pitch vision actually feel achieved as the powerfully subverting movie it could be in Spiral, more so succeeding on being a 93-minute long establishing unit of rudimentary police brutality rundowns (for which we’re all too familiar with) that just so happens to also be building to a larger narrative conundrum on its sidelines. Howbeit, the spin-off does now have me very interested for the future given the potential it sets forth. I guess therein lies the problem though: what it wants to do ends up being more interesting than what it did do.

I’m sure those who watched the movie already can relate to this final comment a little more, but it really ticked me off too how they basically reveal the killer’s identity halfway through by awkwardly glossing over a pretty significant event, but then the movie proceeds to act like the audience wouldn’t put two and two together from that blatant plot jump alone. Don’t worry Spiral, we definitely figured it out before the big reveal thanks to that. 

Verdict: C-

The Saw Franchise Ranked, 2021 Ranked

“Spiral: From the Book of Saw” is now playing in theaters.

Quick-Thoughts: Jigsaw (2017)

Saw Marathon • 2nd Viewing • Warning: Minor Spoilers Ahead

This is essentially the Jurassic World of the Saw franchise with its quip-central dialogue/acting and high-budget polished look to filter out the fear that’s umm meant to come from its genre (word?), except it’s not working off a whole lot of backbone or high expectations as Spielberg’s franchise which makes it somewhat less offensive than… well… Jurassic World. It’s clearly trying to cater to a larger audience while also automating as a tribute to familiar elements from its predecessors, and by familiar, I mean almost to-the-bone copycat ideas: the chain pulling/hanging + drowning + collar traps, the ending being just a combo of Saw II, IV and V’s twists, and Nelson literally being Hoffman 2.0. Yep, it all boils down to just a retread, so there’s not a whole lot more to say about this 2017 revamp. LA-ME and LA-ZY. 

The psycho hipster fangirl plot point though had potential… but only potential. *sigh* Spiral, here we go!

Verdict: D

The Saw Franchise Ranked

“Jigsaw” is now available to stream on Peacock.

Quick-Thoughts: Saw 3D (2010)

Saw Marathon • 2nd Viewing • Warning: Spoilers Ahead

Not gonna lie, I’m a little offended that they named the racist “Evan”, but at least he’s played by Chester Bennington. In that case, I’m honored. 

The Final Chapter is a complete dead end of a *conclusion* that belongs exclusively to the abysses of hell alongside other infamously tragic horror sequels such as Friday the 13th VII, The Final Nightmare, Halloween: Resurrection, and Seed of Chucky. Except, this one might be the greatest offender of all because at least those movies have a karate-kickin’ Busta Rhymes or some Brad Dourif puns to fill in the gaps with shameless laughter, but instead Twisted Pictures gives us tacked-on Cary Elwes pretending to be the villain all-along, which is the most unconvincing character twist I have ever had the displeasure of cringing at in my entire life. This is the hardest one to b***h about in detail too since I can’t even put a pin on my memory already for what happened in it and it’s only been like twenty minutes since I saw it — a record breaker in forgettability! There’s nothing more offensive than an unnecessary sequel that doesn’t at least try to justify its existence, but this flat out feels like a hodgepodge of uncertain ideas and inferior rip-offs of concepts that the past Saw movies had already explored. Oh, and I’m sure you are all aware that this has some of the weakest dialogue and acting EVER to be put on screen — Gibson might be the dullest character to partake in this franchise thanks to his performance and the lines he’s given. Nobody is clearly trying anymore, since it seems here like people just thought that there had to be a conclusion so they kind of just put whatever together. This isn’t dumb fun anymore, it’s just outright pathetic.

Shoutout to Jigsaw’s 8 Mile cosplay drip though.  

Verdict: F

The Saw Franchise Ranked

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

Quick-Thoughts: Saw VI (2009)

Saw Marathon • 2nd Viewing • Warning: Spoilers Ahead

Not gonna lie, Hoffman is a little based for putting that woman up against a fat dude in the opening. If he had cut off his arm just like she did, she would’ve lost for being a healthier person. Go figure. 

Umm… what the f**k? Why is Saw VI actually a pretty decent movie? Like, I expected some more dumb fun, and while I got plenty of that again, I was rather mostly stunned to witness Jigsaw put these healthcare swindlers into an absolute hellhole of moral confusion that’s kind of difficult to endure as a viewer. There’s a really effective scene in this movie that particularly caught me off-guard involving a carrousel trap. After our main victim (president of a healthcare company that capitalizes off the poor health of others) is forced to see a person die because of his loftier well-being, let an innocent young man die for a beloved old lady, and traumatized seeing a colleague attempt to kill him after helping her, he’s confronted with an ultimate test that’s essentially there for him to realize how unfair it is to choose who lives and who dies by actually putting him directly into the killing chair that he’s unconsciously sat in for years. The best part about this scene though is he has to let 4 people die, and 2 people live by pressing two buttons that harm him, but by the end after 3 have perished, you can tell he legitimately doesn’t want to choose anymore as his last button press is almost completely done at random once he looks away and prepares his fingers to press as the carousel chooses the one that’ll be saved by him. He actually learns his lesson, woah…

“Right now, you’re feeling helpless.”

Shockingly, the Hoffman stuff was somewhat edging to watch too? Like that voice decoding scene where he gets exposed was nail-biting! — although him escaping that was pretty impractical to the highest degree but whatevs; it’s a goofy Saw movie, remember? There’s still obnoxious s**t in it though like the added Amanda twists, the whole Jill subplot, the (as usual) new contradictions to Jigsaw’s philosophies, and the callbacks to Saw III, but they’re all pretty minimal and easily ignorable aspects of the story, as the focus seems to really be on this main victim and his new set of tests. I guess you could successfully argue that this whole central theme of healthcare is explored pretty superficially, as well, and I definitely don’t disagree with that, but even as basic commentary it still works especially in the context of it being in a gruesome Saw movie. There are also commendable moments here where either Jigsaw explains secondary methods and theories to improving healthcare that just make decent sense or when they use the intimidating trap settings to remarkably symbolize what’s really happening beneath the surface as companies choose to financially rob those of disabilities by essentially killing them through protective legal walls. Is it exaggerative in portrayal? Maybe? But, am I happy this franchise finally decided to at least mindfully attempt to be poignant and relevant through the means of working with what many have been negatively calling shallow gore-porn for the past decade? Yes, yes I am.

Verdict: B-

The Saw Franchise Ranked

“Saw VI” is now available to stream on HBO Max.