Ginger Nuts of Horror
I am about eleven years old. I am sitting in front of the television and I am watching a BBC show about a haunting. A family is being terrorised by a poltergeist in their London home. It is throwing the children around, along with furniture and - I won’t lie - I am petrified. I do not sleep for days afterwards and even when the BBC admits it was a hoax, nothing more than a spectacle for a Halloween Special, it does not make me feel any better. Nor does it make others feel better either as they continue calling through with complaints. This was The Enfield Haunting. To this day there are people who continue stating it was a hoax but there are also people who stand by what they saw in that documentary (police officers, news reporters, neighbours…). More than that, they look deeply uncomfortable when discussing it, as though they want it erased from their lives. I’ll never forget that documentary and I never want to because, whether it was true or not, it was horror done right. We, as an audience, want to be scared. We want to feel uncomfortable watching or reading anything in this genre and we want to walk away questioning our beliefs. Due I believe in ghosts and things that go bump in the night? Well, not really, but I want to believe and horror done correctly helps me to do just that. You might be wondering why I am waffling on about this old BBC show - let me tell you. Last night I saw James Wan’s unexpected and unnecessary sequel to The Conjuring and it was based on The Enfield Haunting - a case which went on to become one of the most documented cases of paranormal activity. So infamous was the haunting that - and I did not know this - it got the attention of Ed and Lorraine Warren who, on behalf of the church, headed over to Jolly old England to investigate for themselves…
The film starts in America. Ed and Lorraine are working, doing their stuff, in the Amityville house - another famous case which has divided people with regards to those who believe and those who call bullshit. Lorraine goes into her trance-like state and heads off in her own special way to have a look for any spooks and boy does she find them. I say “them” but I mean “it”. A creepy spirit in a nun’s outfit. Creepy? Definitely. Uncanny resemblance to Marilyn Manson? Certainly. I don’t know why but the very look of this spirit freaks me out a bit, well done to the make-up team give yourselves a pat on the back and ignore the other reviewers who state it has too much CGI and make-up (CGI???? Must have blinked and miss that…). As you would expect from a horror film’s opening all Hell breaks loose and Lorraine comes to, in her trusted circle, screaming. Her husband is trying to comfort her when she utters the line, ‘This is the closest to Hell I have been.’ A line delivered so subtly that it gave me a shiver down my back and set the rest of the film up perfectly. There will be no more spoilers from me.
This film is filled with cliche after cliche (things moving across the floor, things going bump, things suddenly appearing behind people) but James Wan is a master of making them work. He has taken what worked in the first film and amplified it. More than that he hasn’t over-used them. When the scare jumps do happen, they’re horrible. I jumped so hard at one bit (I don’t usually jump) that the tips of my fingers tingled for what felt like a minute. It was an uncomfortable experience and I didn’t exactly rest-up afterwards as the atmosphere he had created in the English house lingered like a fart in a car. The spirit in the house is unpleasant too, as is the voice it used. Whoever did the sound design, pat yourself on the back. When you first hear ‘It’s my house’ drawled out to the youngest of the girls, the hairs on the back of your neck stand to attention. More so when something heavy then flies across the room with a heavy thud, just missing whatever character is being terrorised at that particular moment.
I will address other reviews as - last night - I read some curious to see what people are saying about the film. Some moan the film is too long and they cram too much in and - because of that - it suffers. I disagree. The film is long (over two hours which is almost unheard of for horror films) and they do cram a lot in but that’s because they’re building a solid story - something more horror films miss these days. You have to think what is happening, you can’t just turn off and enjoy the jump-scares. This is more story, more tension, more overall creep factor than some cheap two-bit horror relying on over the top music and monsters popping out of the screen. I think people have become so used to tripe that they relish in it now as opposed to shunning it. So, when films like this come along, they don’t know how to handle it. This is an intelligent, uncomfortable film which had me thinking (and still thinking) long after the event thanks to some of the scenes utilised (I really want to talk about them but don’t wish to spoil your experience). Oh, as for filmmakers using music to bring on fear and a sudden jump… There is one scene in the film where the music builds and builds as the camera zooms in on something. You mentally prepare yourself to jump. Your body goes rigid. Here it comes. Any minute now and - nothing - we cut away to something else. There was no jump, there was no scare. There was nothing. But now you’re sitting there wondering if the same trick will be used again on you or whether - the next time it happens - you will be expecting not to jump and WHAM - you go through the ceiling. It was a cheap move, Wan, but it worked.
If you have a love of horror, watch this film. Watch it with the lights off, engage your brain and pay attention to the story. If you ignore anything, ignore the dire English accents which are just cringeworthy for the most part.