The Conjuring 2 (2016) [Midnight Movie]

You’ve got to be a gifted filmmaker to make me care about a couple of characters based on the paranormal investigators known as The Warrens. Were they delusional or professional scumbags? Or both? I’m going with both.

In case you haven’t noticed yet, I’m a card-carrying skeptic, through and through. Before I saw The Conjuring I would have gladly forgotten The Warrens existed at all. In a piece of fantasy, however, the characters are fascinating. Years ago, as mentioned in the first film, Vera Farmiga’s Lorraine Warren had a premonition so terrifying, she refused to tell her husband (Patrick Wilson’s Ed Warren) what she saw in it. I would have preferred it if The Conjuring 2 kept her vision a mystery, but this time around they spill the beans. Their reason for doing so, however, induces a feeling of dread which helps drive this sequel.

The Warrens have been called in to investigate the strange happenings at a London home occupied by a single mother (Frances O’Connor) and her three children. There’s an entity in the house who calls himself Bill. Bill likes to rip sheets from the beds and tug on the children’s ankles. When the mother tries to intervene, he graduates to biting, which leaves behind nasty sets of teeth marks on their skin.

Bill’s not the only presence at play here. The kids own a creepy old zoetrope. The spindly figure it depicts sometimes vanishes from the toy altogether, only to reappear creeping around the house in a mixture of CGI and stop-motion effects. It’s the best visual of the entire movie. Hell, it’s probably the best visual in any horror movie in years. Meanwhile the kids sing a nursery rhyme about this character, calling him the crooked man. (This is apparently a real-life nursery rhyme.)

Finally, there’s the demonic nun who seems unrelated to the London house, but frequently torments Lorraine. The demon is, disappointingly, a shoe-in for Marilyn Manson, which may be a case of director James Wan showing his age. And if this sounds like the movie is getting a little too overloaded with villains, I would have to agree. They should have kept the crooked man and dumped the Marilyn Manson lookalike altogether.

Still, The Conjuring 2 is the rare horror sequel which feels like a worthwhile continuation. It mixes in just enough new stuff to dazzle us while keeping enough of the old ingredients we liked so much the first time around. I do think it’s pretty dishonest to portray skeptical characters as stupid assholes, but hey, whatever—it’s Wan’s movie, not mine. Elsewhere, the characters are expertly written and the leads become even more interesting than they were in the first movie. Maybe the horror isn’t quite as good as it was in part one, but you’d need a very precise measuring tool to know for sure.

When The Conjuring 3 comes out I’ll be the first in line.

3D printing woes?

So I finally bought a 3D printer. The machine itself arrived today, but the PLA filament I ordered won’t be arriving until tomorrow, which is downright cruel. Thankfully, the machine comes with a few coils of sample filament, which has allowed me to print some extremely small projects. I got to experience a couple of failures, too.

I went with the Monoprice Select Mini. For one, I really like Monoprice and I tell people to check out their website a lot. Even though I heard they’re coming out with better models in April, I’m curious (read: impatient) to see how far two hundred dollars will take me right now. Besides, I foresee two things happening by the time April rolls around: either I’ve lost interest in 3D printing entirely or I’ll be shopping for something much more serious than the Select Mini. I think two hundred bucks is a pretty reasonable fee for finding out which.

That isn’t to say I think my losing interest is a strong possibility, just that I’ve got enough stuff going on right now. So I’m trying to justify my purchase not as a new hobby (which is the last thing I need), but as an early adoption of a skill that will be very common in the near future. Besides, 3D modelling in Blender, which is already one of my hobbies, will be closely related to printing. So win-win, right?

I think what I’m trying to say with this post is this: You can probably expect me to start talking about 3D printing a bit more in the coming weeks. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a Thingiverse Cthulhu to print.

(Update: the Cthulhu failed. It’s the first failure I’ve had that I can’t contribute to human error… and now I’m pretty much out of filament.)

Arcade game woes

Last Friday I decided to pull the electronics, but a fever I’ve been having on and off for about a week knocked me on my ass. I’ve been alternatively freezing and sweating my ass off ever since. Hopefully I’ll be able to start the bodywork next weekend.
Whenever I haven’t been too exhausted to stand, I’ve been playing Gyruss on my MAME cabinet. It’s one of the few space shooters I might like more than Galaga. 

full disclosure: this guy is way better than me

Gyruss music is just flat-out fucking rad, isn’t it?

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I’ve finished the first draft of Church Camp. It’s easily the best first draft of anything I’ve ever written. More details soon.

The Conjuring (2013) [Midnight Movie]

One reason I avoided The Conjuring is I wasn’t a fan of director James Wan’s Saw, which I thought had great actors yet phony acting. Besides, the last time I saw Lili Taylor in a horror movie was 1999’s The Haunting, which helped kick off the crappiest era in horror movie history. Then there’s the conceit of calling this a true story (‘kay), which reeks of the same dishonesty that produced The Amityville Horror, one of the dumbest fucking movies ever made.

And if you think The Amityville Horror really happened, I would like to sell you a bridge, but there’s a good chance you’ve already got all your money locked away in a scam anyway. It just really rubs me the wrong way when movies try to exploit the “open-minded” by slapping “based on a true story” on a title card. Every other week I have to read news about children getting killed by make-believe exorcists and parents who chose prayer over medicine. (I imagine this problem might get worse now that Dr. Oz is focusing on faith-healing every Friday this month… that’s where we are now.) So when I heard this movie was about The Warrens, you better believe I rolled my eyes so hard they nearly popped out of my skull.

I could go on and on about why The Conjuring didn’t look like my cup of tea, but now that I’ve seen it I’m in danger of something which shocks me: I could gush about this movie. Really. I think this is one of the finest horror films ever made—this in spite of the fact that, from a distance, it appears to embody everything I dislike about modern horror.

Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson, who play the paranormal investigators known as The Warrens, are the kind of screen talent we don’t see much of today. They find themselves in introspective roles which might have been filled by the likes of Shelly Winters and Henry Fonda several years ago. There’s something satisfyingly old fashioned about their methods, which makes them perfectly believable in a story set in 1971, and I have to give James Wan credit for casting adults who look and act like real people.

Meanwhile, Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor play The Perrons, the parents of five daughters who are targeted by the presence haunting their home. Eventually, the strange happenings in the house become so frightening the family resorts to sleeping in the living room together because they’re too scared to stay in separate bedrooms. It’s at this point The Perrons seek out The Warrens for help, who will have to document the case in such a way the church grants them an exorcism. Naturally, the presence doesn’t like The Warrens’ involvement one bit and things become increasingly violent.

Here’s a movie which successfully homages everything from The Exorcist to Poltergeist with a lot of respect. I have a feeling I wouldn’t like James Wan’s opinions on the source material’s legitimacy, but damn it, he’s made a great movie with genuinely creepy moments. I love that little room where the Warrens keep the relics they’ve accumulated over the course of their career… if that’s not a bubbling cauldron of imagination, I don’t what is.

I’ll be featuring the sequel next Friday. Let’s just say I’m cautiously optimistic.