Last night I saw James Wan‘s The Conjuring 2 (Warner Bros., 6.10) at an Arclight all-media screening, and…okay, it was scary at times. I have to admit that the black-eyed demon nun (played by Bonnie Aarons) got to me. But it was just as Walmart-y as I expected. It’s a horror film made for people who don’t respond to scary stuff unless it’s jolting, grotesque, amplified and super-intense. No subtle pings for Wan and his fans. Because the fans are simply too coarse and insensitive to be receptive to anything that doesn’t grab them by the lapels. They want growls, howls, shrieks, loud thumpings, etc.
Prediction: a sizable percentage of those who will pay to see The Conjuring 2 this weekend (it’s expected to make $35 to $40 million) will complain about Personal Shopper not being scary enough or too oblique or whatever.
The Conjuring 2 is way, way too long. I was watching, waiting…whoa, that was scary!…shifting around, wishing I’d bought some popcorn. Then Patrick Wilson got out the guitar and serenaded the kids with “I Can’t Stop Falling In Love With You.” I looked at my watch at the 105-minute mark and said to myself, “We’re almost at two hours and this thing is still futzing around…when are the narrative strands going to start coalescing into some kind of third-act climax?” Well, the damn thing lasts 134 minutes.
Conjuring 2 is rank with cliches. Wan uses the “deep man’s voice coming out of a little girl” routine from The Exorcist, the old Close Encounters device of a kid’s toy turning itself on and roaming around a home, the Poltergeist trick of having spectral spirits occupy a TV screen. Why are haunted homes in these low-rent films always painted in grim, grayish-green color? Why are the bedrooms covered in shitty-looking wallpaper? Why are haunted bathrooms always in need of a serious industrial-strength cleaning? Why are haunted-house cellars always dank and gross and filled with clutter?