Posts Tagged ‘The Conjuring’

I was very excited waiting for this film to come out. How could I not be? I saw the original trailer three times before I sat down in the theater, and it made me jump at the end every time! And apparently another trailer was so scary, it was taken off YouTube (I wish I’d seen it before it got taken down, but that’s life). So you could see why I was interested in going to see it, and why I hoped it wouldn’t be terrible.

I’m glad to say, for the most part, The Nun lives up to the hype.

The Nun follows Father Burke, a priest who investigates paranormal and strange events on behalf of the church, and Sister Irene, a young novitiate with a history of fantastic visions. They are sent by the Vatican to investigate the suicide of a nun at a convent in Romania, and while there face an ancient evil that is seeking to escape the abbey and to wreak havoc on the wider world.

First off, the best part of this film is its characters and the actors playing them. Although they’re not the most developed, they feel like real people you might know and even want to hang out with. Sister Irene, played by Taissa Farmiga (the main series’ star Vera Farmiga’s younger sister, if you can believe it), is a loving, down-to-Earth woman who is trying to figure out whether to become a full nun. Frenchie, a young man who helps Father Burke and Sister Irene out, is wonderful comic relief as he flirts with Sister Irene and asks the occasional stupid question. And the Nun…yeah, that monster is still freaky as it was in the Conjuring 2. No wonder a film centering on it got made.

I also love the set of this film, a castle which is like a cross between Hogwarts’s darker sides and some castles in Europe I myself have been to. It’s so creepy and decrepit,, and is made to look almost like a maze you could get lost in. Add in all the touches–like the hundred thousand crosses placed throughout the castle–and it adds the perfect touch.

And, as always, there’s a strong atmosphere in this movie, just as we’ve come to expect from the Conjuring franchise. It keeps you tense and, coupled with some good jump scares (including that one from the trailer, which still got me) and a decent plot, keeps you interested and even a little scared throughout the movie.

Still, The Nun isn’t perfect. While the plot is decent, you can kind of guess where things are going to go about sixty-percent of the time, with the other forty-percent just being minor touches like a twist with the hauntings or something the demon does that you don’t expect. That, and the film may over-rely on jumpscares. This is a criticism that many people have had about the Conjuring films, but this is really the first time it bothered me. It might’ve been better if maybe the film relied more on creeping terror and a few more twists rather than making me jump in my seat.

Still, The Nun is a great addition to the Conjuring series and a good sign that there’s still plenty to mine from the lives of Ed and Lorraine Warren. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving the film a 3.8. It’s not perfect, but it’s got a lot going for it and I’m glad I went to go see it. Take a look, and pray for safety…and that the next Annabelle film is good.

Yes, there’s another Annabelle film on the way. It’s going to be released next summer, and it looks like it might be the last Annabelle film, dealing with the titular doll and the Warrens’ daughter. Obviously, I’m looking forward to it.

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I’ve been reading a lot of articles about how Hollywood is coming to see big horror films are, and that they are looking into making more. It’s even been compared to the explosion of superhero films that came about after the Dark Knight trilogy and Iron Man showed how popular and profitable superhero films could be. Since I am a horror fan in addition to a horror writer, I thought I’d weigh in on the subject.

First off, this explosion in horror is not exactly out of the blue. Studios have been making horror films since the early days of film, and they keep making them every year. There’s obviously always been an interest and a profit to be made in horror. It’s just lately we’ve had a slew of horror films that have shown studios and audiences that horror can be extremely profitable, mainstream, and even deeply thematic. We actually first started seeing this trend years ago with films like the Paranormal Activity series, which kicked off a huge fad of found-footage horror films, and with Blumhouse Productions, which proved you can make horror films cheaply and still have critical and box office success. This is especially so with their Conjuring film series, which in itself is a cinematic universe.

But late 2016 and 2017 brought on a slew of horror films that really brought these points home. Split, with its surprise ending technically making it a superhero film, and Get Out, with its commentary on race on par with some Oscar-nominated films, brought horror into the mainstream in new ways. Later in 2017, Annabelle: Creation and It proved massively successful beyond anyone’s wildest dreams, and in 2018, films like A Quiet Place are raking in the dough and proving how powerful horror can be in creating terrifying atmospheres and emotional narratives.

And this is just scratching the surface: Stephen King stories are being optioned at record rates (where’s my adaptation of The Library Policeman?); some of Netflix’s biggest recent original films have been horror movies; and studios are developing more horror movies than ever before. It: Chapter Two starts filming this summer, and a new Halloween film is getting released this year. So while I may say yes, horror is kind of the new superhero film, it’s not because they suddenly became profitable. The potential has always been there, it just took some very specific successes with deeper cultural resonance to really bring that potential to the attention of studio heads.

Remember, don’t do what The Mummy did. Not if you want your horror movie to actually be successful, let alone spawn a franchise.

So yes, the horror genre may be the new superhero film, with every studio wanting its own successful films, film series, or film universe. But to steal a superhero film quote, “With great power comes great responsibility.” So while I have no pretensions that studio heads or directors or writers or whatever will see this post, let alone take its message to heart, I thought I’d offer some advice advice on getting into this horror boom. After all, as a horror fan and a creator, I want the horror boom to continue. The more good horror out there, the better. So here are some of my ideas for ways to make sure the boom doesn’t fizzle out:

  • Focus on telling a good scary story. This seems obvious, but some companies get so caught up in having a successful film or franchise, they forget to make a good horror film. Remember last year’s The Mummy? That film was convoluted, packed to the brim, and not at all scary. Not a good start for a film that was supposed to be the launching point for an entire cinematic horror universe. Which was the problem: Universal was so concerned with getting their franchise off the ground, they forgot what let Iron Man get the MCU off the ground: a good film in and of itself. If Iron Man had not led to the MCU, it still would’ve been an excellent superhero film. The Mummy should’ve been made that way, but unfortunately, it wasn’t, and now the Dark Universe is sunk.
    So remember kids, focus on a good story first, franchise a distant second. At least said franchise is up and running, of course.
  • Take chances on new/indie directors and stories. A lot of great horror films have come from the indie scene and/or from new/emerging directors. It Follows and Babadook were both very successful horror films from directors with less than three films under their belts, and the former was from the indie scene. Get Out was from Jordan Peele, who had never done a horror film before in his life.
    And all these stories are original plots. In an age where every other movie is a sequel, remake, or some variation on a familiar story or trend, adding something new to the horror canon has the ability to draw in a diverse audience, rather than just the smaller audience of devoted fans and some possible new ones.
    So take a few risks. It could lead to some big returns.
  • Adapt more than just Stephen King. Yeah, I’m happy for the many Stephen King adaptations being made (Library Policeman movie, please?). But there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Even his Royal Scariness: I got sick of him back in high school because I read too much King and had to take a break for a few years. I still make sure to space out my dives into his stories nowadays. And if that could happen to me with his books, imagine what it could do to audiences with too many of his movies.
    The point is, there are a number of horror writers out there whose works should be adapted. Scott Thomas’s Kill Creek is one of the best novels I’ve read so far this year; Ania Ahlborn’s Within These Walls would make a great Blumhouse movie; Junji Ito has plenty of stories that could make great films; and as I noted in a previous post, HP Lovecraft is in the public domain and would make for great cinema. It’s something to consider.
    And before you ask, “What about your works, Rami?” I would be flattered if someone showed interest in adapting one of my stories. However, I don’t think that’s a possibility at this stage of my career, so I’m not going to get my hopes up. Still, I’d be flattered.

Horror is finally being given the attention it deserves from Hollywood, and I couldn’t be happier for it. However, it’s going to take a lot of work, and a lot of good stories, for horror to continue to thrive. I hope that filmmakers old and new are up to the task.

A lot of people hated Annabelle when it came out in 2014 as a spin-off of The Conjuring. I didn’t review it on this blog back then because I saw it about three or four weeks after it came out, but I thought it was a decent scary movie. Not as good as The Conjuring, but still very good. So when I heard that the sequel to Annabelle being made was actually going to be a prequel, I was intrigued, hopeful, and confused (wasn’t Annabelle the origin story?). Today, I went to the theater to see for myself if the fourth entry in The Conjuring film series was going to be good, or the start of the inevitable horror film series decline (you know it’s inevitable).

This might actually be the most solid entry since the original Conjuring film, and it’s a lot better than the first Annabelle.

Annabelle: Creation introduces us to the Mullins, a dollmaker and his wife who lose their little girl in an accident. Years later, the Mullins open their home to a girls’ orphanage, only for an ancient and malevolent evil with connections to the Mullins’ little girl to target one of the young girls, and through her, the whole household.

This film scared me pretty badly, using atmosphere, jumpscares, practical effects, and minimal CGI to create a powerful scare factor. There were a number of moments where I was just holding myself, thinking to myself, “NOPE!” or “GTFO,”* which just shows how frightened I was. If you can make me think “NOPE!” and make me want to run (or the characters), you’ve done a good job with your scary movie.

The direction of the film was strong and skillful, the writing for the most part was effective and didn’t have that many issues. This was an almost entirely female cast, and they were all very convincing. I especially loved the interaction between characters Janice and Linda, who have a very sisterly bond between the two of them, to the point that they don’t want to be adopted unless it’s together. It was so adorable, you just wanted to give them that home they wished for! I also liked the character of Sister Charlotte, the nun who takes care of and teaches these girls. Nuns in film, at least in my experience, are either matronly and motherly, or weak and wilting, but Sister Charlotte was strong and decisive, willing to risk her life and even do some things that would make others hesitate when she realizes what’s going on and has to defend her girls.

Me having some fun before the film.

There’s not much else to say on the plus side. The sets and costumes are convincing of their period, there are fun references to both the doll Annabelle’s actual form (a Raggedy Ann doll, if you didn’t know), as well as to the other films in the universe and even a hint of what we might expect in the upcoming film The Nun (coming out in 2018), based off that creepy nun-demon in The Conjuring 2. And they do connect this film to Annabelle, which does explain a lot.

There are some issues, of course, (and here I get a little SPOILER-y). And I don’t just mean the normal ones when watching a horror film (why doesn’t anyone else in this house hear the screaming? Why aren’t they running further away from the house? etc.). I would’ve liked to see more interaction between Linda and Janice, because they were so cute, and because that would’ve made the moment where one of them figures out something’s wrong with the other that much more convincing. I also didn’t care for the moments when they took the demons out of the shadows and showed them full-face, because it looks a little hokey. I would’ve preferred that they showed more of a creepy scarecrow, if truth be told.

And ironically, the way it connects to the original Annabelle leaves a few more questions that we’ll never get answers to.

But, in total, Annabelle: Creation is a great horror film, delivering on its promise of scary dolls making us crap our pants. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving it a 4.6. Go see it, and make sure you bring someone (or a stuffed animal) to hug when you get terrified. Believe me, you may need it.

*GTFO = Get the fuck out. It’s what every person thinks while watching a horror film and seeing when something awful is about to happen in a particular location.

I wanted to see this when it came out, but it came out after I moved, which means if I wanted to see it, I had to ride a bus about an hour one way to the nearest movie theater (and that’s just the start of the trip). Sucks, but on the bright side, the DVD came out only a couple of months after it came out in theaters, so I still get to see it relatively soon after it’s release.

So how did The Conjuring 2 stack up, both as a sequel to The Conjuring (which I gave a very good review) and as a horror film in general? I’m pleased to say, it stacks up pretty well on both counts. The film continues the story of real life ghost hunters Ed and Lorraine Warren (played again by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, the latter of whom I’ve yet to see in a bad role), giving another one of their famous cases the Hollywood treatment (because real life hauntings are never resolved this easily). This time they’re dealing with the Enfield haunting, a case in which a family living in public housing, particularly the daughters, are oppressed by some sort of demonic entity, as well as Lorraine dealing with a vision that supposedly shows her husband’s death.

Like its predecessor, The Conjuring 2 knows how to tell a scary story. Both jump scares and just creepy atmosphere-building moments are written and filmed wonderfully (there’s a scene where they’re interviewing the ghost without looking at it, and it’s just so freaky), there isn’t a lot of CGI, which I like in a horror film, and the acting feels real enough to make me believe in all of these characters. Of course, the story probably breaks quite a bit from the actual events of the Enfield haunting, but that’s to be expected in a movie version of events. They do give some film time to claims that the girls faked the hauntings (rather obviously too), but as it’s a horror film, they do explain why the girls tried to fake an obviously real haunting (in the movie, anyway). And there’s a fun reference to the Amityville haunting (how did they make that without paying copyright fees?) that I liked. There’s a lot to like in this film.

My favorite part, personally, is the villain, the Masked Nun. God, she/it is creepy. I can see why a spin-off is in the works based on that one creepy character!

Sadly, of course, there’s a few things that I didn’t care for. There’s a moment where Ed sings to the kids in the style of Elvis Presley that felt somewhat unnecessary and possibly shoehorned in, and there’s a joke not too long afterwards involving how far cameras have come in 1977 that, while funny, could’ve been cut out without any problems. Oh, and what’s with that musical montage near the beginning of the film involving footage from England in the 70s? We know this film takes place in London in the 1970s! We don’t need a montage with annoying English 70s music to hammer that home to us!

All in all though, I liked the film. It’s a good follow-up to The Conjuring, and I enjoyed every minute of it. On a scale of 1 to 5, I give it a 4.5 out of 5. Definitely go see it, and get yourself scared.

And this is probably my last post until next month. See you then!

Before I start, I just want to make sure everyone is aware that I’m not actually showing you how to curse someone. I do know how to do that, but I don’t want to share the method lest someone use it on me. That would suck. No, I’m talking about creating a curse for a story, one that would terrify all who read your work.

The thing about curses is that they are relentless and awful. A curse doesn’t discriminate based on how nice you are, how much money you make, what religion you belong to, or any other factor. No, once a curse locks onto you, it’s like you have a target on your back that you can’t get off, and you won’t get that target off until the curse has run its course (usually this means death). That’s what makes them so scary.

So how do you create a curse? First you need to decide on this:

Person, place, and/or thing. A curse is usually associated with a specific object, location, or person, though sometimes a curse can be associated with more than one of these (such as with an entire family, multiple houses, or a person who lived in a house). In the movie The Conjuring and its spinoff/prequel Annabelle (which I just saw recently), a curse was placed on the doll, allowing a demon to possess it and make havoc for anyone who came into contact with the doll. That’s an example of a cursed object. The house in The Grudge is an example of a cursed location, as well as an example of a cursed person (Kayako, the woman who lived in the house, is the one who carries out the curse). Another example of a cursed person is simply someone who has a curse placed upon them, making interaction with others difficult, if not impossible. Boy, would that suck!

This brings me to my next point, though:

The well is essential to Samara’s curse and origin story.

The origin story. Every curse has its story of how it came to be, and often that the basis of how the curse can be warded off (more on that later). Generally this involves some horrific event happening, causing the curse to manifest or be cast. For example, in the Buffy universe Angel’s curse was caused when he killed the beloved child of a tribe of gypsies, who restored his soul to him through magic. Another example is when Samara/Sadako from the Ring movies was trapped in the well and died, her soul was filled with rage and she infected a blank video cassette. And in The Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, Freddy’s curse came into being when he was killed in a fire by the parents of the children he’d killed/molested (depending on if you’re going with the original movie series or the remake).

 

The trigger. For a curse to take hold of a target, something specific has to happen. For instance, in the popular Bloody Mary legend (which I’ve tested numerous times, by the way), you have to say Bloody Mary three times in the mirror in order to summon her. In the Stephen King story Bag of Bones, the curse was triggered when a child descended from one of any of the families involved in a gruesome murder, whose name usually began with a K, got to a certain age (in the TV miniseries, this was simplified to just the daughters). And in the popular story The Monkey’s Paw, one had to make a wish on the titular paw in order to start the curse. Which leads to the fun part:

How the curse manifests. A curse manifests after the trigger has been…well, triggered. In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (yes, I’m pulling Harry Potter out), Katie Bell was put in unimaginable pain when she touched the cursed necklace. Touching the necklace was the trigger, and the pain was the manifestation. Another form of manifestation would be the Tecumseh curse, which was that any President elected in a year divisible by twenty would die in office (though Ronald Reagan and President Bush managed to get away). The election year is the trigger, while the death of the President is the manifestation.

How to ward it off. This is optional for literary curses, but it’s something you want to consider in creating a curse. In Jewish folklore, the demon Lilith tries to take the souls of newborns or eat them. However, if one has a mezuzah, a marker on one’s doorpost  that has the name of three angels on it, Lilith cannot enter the home and attempt to take the child. The angels whose names are on the mezuzah were the same angels who tried to get Lilith to return to Adam when she was still his wife. When she refused, they cursed her to become a demon and made it that she could not enter a home with their names on it (that’s how the origin story relates to warding off the curse).

The hamsa, a symbol prevalent in Judaism and Islam, is also good at warding off evil. It’s no good at warding off taxes though.

In another example, there’s a curse among some actors about saying the name Macbeth in a theater which leads to bad luck. Depending on who you ask, there are different methods to dispelling the curse, a popular one being to leave the theater, walk around the building three times, spit over one’s left shoulder, say an obscenity, and then wait to be invited back into the theater.

Containing/canceling the curse. This is also optional in writing fiction, but it should be considered. Two things one should consider when figuring out how to cancel or seal a curse is that it should be difficult, and that it doesn’t necessarily have to do with the origin story. In the movie The Unborn, the dybbuk couldn’t be stopped until it was exorcised. A similar thing happened in the third movie in the American Grudge movies, in which case an exorcism that sealed Kayako into a little girl was needed before she could be stopped. In Japanese onryo legends, the spirit needs to have whatever is disturbing it resolved or it will continue to seek revenge.And in Bag of Bones, Sarah Tidwell did not end her curse until her bones were dissolved with lye, thereby releasing her from Earth.

That’s how you create a curse. As for creating a terrifying story involving that curse…well, that’s up to you. I’m not going to give you directions on that. Not in this post, anyway.

Oh, and one more thing: I saw Dracula Untold and Annabelle at the movies today with a friend. Both were excellent, getting 4.5 out of 5 from me. But something in the latter film really stuck with me: near the end, the priest character says that evil can only be contained, it’s not created or destroyed (or something like that). I think that when you’re writing a scary story, especially one involving curses, that’s some pretty good stuff to keep in mind. True evil is not something you can easily be rid of. At least, not in my experience.

What advice do you have for creating curses?

Have you written anything with curses recently?

Are there any stories of curses that are your favorite or that I didn’t include? Tell me a bit about them.