I’ve been watching a fair few horror movies recently.
The Conjuring (2013)
Directed by James Wan of Saw fame, this did rather well at the box office last year. Allegedly based on a true story, it tells of a family who move into their ideal home, only to find that it comes complete with a malevolent entity. When all else fails, they call in two paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorraine Warren, and their team. This was very well done, with engaging characters, a fair few jump moments (I especially liked the hands clapping in the closet), excellent effects and a strong storyline. And yet, a lot of it felt very familiar – the hidden cellar from Amityville, the psychic investigators and flight to a motel from Poltergeist, the witch and her curse from any number of similar films, being dragged round the room from Paranormal Activity, and so on and so forth. What was perhaps most interesting was the character development, with the possession of the mother and her fight, with the aid of the others, to do the right thing, and the dynamics of the relationship between Ed and Lorraine. I enjoyed it, certainly, but while it was fun to watch it didn’t succeed in creeping me out or disturbing me. It was a perfectly constructed scare machine, but without any real depth or soul beyond the sfx and jump moments.
Second Coming (2009)
Low budget and probably straight to DVD, this did however surprise me. Lora Gerritsen shares a psychic bond with twin sister Ashley, which tells her that something terrible has happened in the life of her sister. She goes to investigate, and follows a series of psychic clues that lead to the body of the dead Ashley and the identity of the killer, setting up a final confrontation with the bad guy. But here’s where it gets interesting. Flashbacks reveal a dreadful childhood, the twins continually tormented by their abusive father, and also the power dynamics between the sisters, and this leads into an unexpected ending, but one which makes perfect sense given the nature of their relationship. I guess the moral was that what happens to us in childhood shapes how we act as adults; we can never get away from our past no matter how hard we try, as we carry all that baggage with us. It wasn’t particularly well acted or shot, and as entertainment it fell far short of The Conjuring, but all the same the end twist gave me something to think about after the film was done, though I doubt if I’ll ever watch it again.
Dark Water (2005)
Remake of a Japanese film based on a short story by Koji Suzuki – I’ve read the story but not seen the original film, though I did catch this version at the cinema when it came out. Jennifer Connelly is Dahlia, mother of Ceci, and going through a difficult divorce, with the father fighting for custody. Mother and daughter move into a new apartment block, where the ceiling leaks constantly and Ceci claims to see a young girl, who causes her to ‘act out’. There’s a flooded apartment on the floor above, and the previous tenants moved out in mysterious circumstances. It’s up to Dahlia to discover what happened there, but the revelation doesn’t bring peace, just another threat to the family unit. I can’t quite pin down why, but this didn’t work for me. They try to muddy the waters with hints that Dahlia isn’t entirely compos mentis, and the antics of the building agent add an unnecessary comedic element that detracted slightly from attempts to create a minatory atmosphere. At the end the film is about the bond between mother and child, what the former is prepared to sacrifice to save the latter, with Dahlia afraid she will turn into her own neglectful mother, but even so the end shift from threat to something almost sentimental in nature didn’t ring true to me. It felt like a film where they placed so much importance in creating that atmosphere, with the constant drip of water, the fall of rain, the swirl of water in washing machines etc., that everything else ran away from them. Yeah, I liked it, but at the same time I really felt like there needed to be something more. I’m just cranky, I guess. I will however go along with the premise that the heart of horror lies in bad plumbing. Anyone seen the original? How does it compare?