Sequels: “The Conjuring,” “Sinister” and “Insidious”

It’s an unspoken rule that successful horror films must be followed by sequels, particularly when the budgets are low. Such sequels tend to be rushed affairs that find themselves relegated to the “subpar” categories. Sequels have been announced to three horror films I either count among my favorites or hold in high esteem. Each reaction started with, “Sure I guess, but…” We all know where this is going.

“…I trust them.”
The Conjuring 2: The Enfield Poltergeist promises to bring the gang back including Vera Farmiga as Lorraine Warren,  Patrick Wilson as her husband Ed Warren and director James Wan. That information alone has me sold as they’ve proven a more than trustworthy team both on the last film and on Insidious (Wan and Wilson) which we’ll get to in a bit. The exception to the dream team is the notable absence of original writers. Wikipedia notes the script has been rewritten by David Leslie Johnson (Orphan 2009, Red Riding Hood 2011 & The Walking Dead season 2) and Eric Heisserer (Final Destination 5 2011, The Thing 2011, Hours 2013). Hopefully, the ill conceived Annabelle is the subpar sequel in this franchise and this is a worthy followup.

“…eh.”
Sinister was a 2012 film I didn’t expect much from as I was scrolling through the Netflix suggestions and was pleasantly surprised by. The title and premise didn’t sound particularly familiar and even YouTubing the trailers didn’t jog my memory. Ethan Hawke was convincing as a true crime author who moves his unsuspecting family into a house where a family was murdered. Father of the Year. Upon a visit to the attic, he comes across a number of family snuff films which are about as heinous as they sound. The film itself begins with grainy footage of one of these films which sets the tone for the entire film. That opening sequence was particularly jarring and the sound design for the film juggled EDM distortions and real world Super 8 film sounds surprisingly well to make this universe sound real.

Although the mythology behind the story and the ending left it open ended and ripe for sequels, based on the trailer, I’m not optimistic. A good trailer can give you hope for a film, but a lackluster trailer just makes you ask, “Why?” But, if they can coax back the sound design department from the original film and opt to develop the characters they’ll already be going in strong. Sinister has already provided the setup so the exposition will probably focus more on the new family we’re to see obliterated by its children in what will surely be the most creatively, barbaric of methods. The thing is, according to writer C.Robert Cargill, the idea for this sprouted from a nightmare. It doesn’t get much scarier than that. Here’s to hoping they can catch lightning in a bottle again.

“…do we have to?”
Look, I enjoyed Insidious as much as everyone else did, but that does not excuse Insidious 2 nor justify Insidious 3. Insidious creeped me out more than it had any right to considering the campy special effects of the last act. Insidious 2 had a handful of creepy scenes (“Grandma, there’s someone standing behind you”), but ultimately more campy than anything. There’s a market for those, but it was a little underwhelming after the potent first film. Hauntings and astro projection are decent plot devices, but this film is more of a prequel to the original film detailing some original incident involving secondary character, Elise. A previous interaction with her and Patrick Wilson’s character Josh Lambert when he was a child is detailed in Insidious 2 and implied in Insidious so, do we really need a story about Elise’s career outside of the Lambert Family? That being said, it would be nice to see Leigh Whannell’s directorial debut.

James Wan and Leigh Whannell have had me as a fan since Saw. The stories they present do make good franchises, but Saw went on far longer than it should have for a full seven films. I’d rather not see Insidious and The Conjuring be treated the same way. If someone pays for my ticket to Insidious 3, I’ll go to the movies to see it. Otherwise, I may wait for Netflix. As far as Sinister goes, when it comes on premium cable or HBO, I’ll be at my mom’s house or on HBONow immediately to see it. The Conjuring 2: The Enfield Poltergeist is the only one of this round of sequels I will freely donate ticket money to seeing. Horror films are always a gamble, but sequels are like playing Roulette with a “system.” There’s just no real way to tell what will happen.

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