The Warrens are back to conjure up the third instalment to the haunting tales based on the books written by Ed & Lorraine Warren, self professed demonologist and psychic (respectively), and the real life events of Arne Cheyenne Johnson, who in 1981 stabbed his land lord to death and they had a claim of demon possession in an attempt to get him off.
Putting the real life events to the side, the film was beautifully shot and constructed with a kind of precise planning that gives the viewer the confidence to see a kid contorting its possessed ickle body to cracking sounds and not instantly think the filmmakers had resorted to child abuse, but rather consider the plethora of crazy safety protocols that must go into filming such a scene. [sigh] Gone are the carefree, guerrilla days of The Adventures of Milo and Otis.
Ed and Lorraine are portrayed once again by the talented Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga continuing to keep the heart of these films lodged comfortably in your throat. James Wan hands the reigns to Michael Chaves who brings the addition of many little homages from popular horror film culture such as The Exorcist and Re-animator while slotting in to the rhythm that keeps these movies franchising so well.
Chaves demonstrated his understanding of the conjuring universe when he directed The Curse of La Llorona (or the Curse of the Weeping Woman) in 2019 and it seems clear that his vision for this universe aligns perfectly and will to continue tighten its hold over our fascination.
100 years ago the Roaring Twenties came into effect with a social and economic boom that pushed the boundaries of experimentation and exploration dubbing it the crazy years.
Cinema has evolved greatly during this time and spawned Robert Miene’s silent horror in German Expressionism, which is still considered a classic among some critics.
While the tides have shifted and the boundaries of what is classified as horror has twisted through the years, moving numerous debates and discussions along the way, we come to a time when originality can be hard to come by, or perhaps the audience has become too critical and our perceptions have changed.
Can the films of today cause a deeper development in the genre that we’ve come to love and like the films that were born a century ago stir the insanity again and break new ground in the process?
Let’s look at what 2020 has in store and see if indeed it will deliver.
This film has led some early reports to compare it to Alien but in the ocean deep instead of the far reaches of space. It does boast Kristen Stewart in the cast who may divide audiences and has been a bit hit and miss of late in her film choices but she is supported in this instance by Vincent Cassel, who is known for choosing experimental films. Does this then mean that this team of underwater researchers will uncover not only a few beasties but also break new ground in the process?
Prediction: Neither sink or swim. A drifter that will entertain some but not cast anything new into the cinematic landscape.
Jan 24 – The Turning
Based on Henry James novel, The Turn of the Screw and produced by Steven Spielberg, it stars Mackenzie Davis (Terminator: Dark Fate) and Finn “Can my hair grow any longer?” Wolfhard (Stranger Things) and bears close scrutiny as director Mike Flanagan (Doctor Sleep) is set to release an interpretation of the novel in Netflix series, The Haunting of Bly Manor, his follow up to the successful The Haunting of Hill House.
Prediction: Director Floria Sigismondi will no doubt bring some artistic visual flair that is evidence from her music videos, but could possibly fall foul of “popcorn syndrome” – Light, fluffy with a bit of crunch and serves the masses, but ultimately has no substance.
Initially I was really excited about this release, being a fan of the Ju On franchise, plus Nicolas Pesce’s work with The Eyes of My Mother, and Piercing. Both movies have pushed the boundaries of comfort and shot in stylistic fashion that I was keen to see where Pesce would take The Grudge. Early reports haven’t been favourable however, so it could be another disappointment in the first month of the new decade.
Prediction: Could be another franchise instalment too many. The name alone will pull in the numbers, yet may not hit the mark on the scare front.
Jan 31 – Gretel and Hansel
It’s been over 200 years since The Brothers Grimm fashioned the fairy tale about a cannibalistic witch that kidnaps two children roaming in the woods. The fact that it is still resonates today is a testament to the strength of the storytelling and it will be interesting to see the story told from the perspective of Gretel played by Sophia Lillis (IT) who has already proved compelling as the young Beverly Marsh.
Prediction: Better than your average fair without necessarily offering anything new or compelling with the horror genre.
Some may argue its place in this list, but it is billed as a psychological horror and director Robert Eggers has already made a name for himself in the artistic expressionism world within the genre with his debut feature, The VVitch, a film that also divided audiences. American audiences have already seen the movie too as it was released there last year, but as yet Australian audiences are still to see Eggers’ sophomore outing which pits Willem Defoe and Robert Pattinson against one another in a battle of wills and sanity in a remote and confined island.
Prediction: Will wow audiences looking for the alternative and alienate those more into the mainstream. Either way, both audiences will applaud the performances and Eggers and cinematographer Jarin Blaschke will paint a stunningly beautiful canvas.
Feb 13 – Fantasy Island
Blumhouse Productions are about to shake things up again by breathing new life into a cult 70s tv series. With a star-studded cast – Michael Pena (Crash), Maggie Q (Nikita), Lucy Hale (Pretty Little Liars), and Michael Rooker (Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer). On an island where your fantasies come true, only to turn into nightmares and the guests must figure out its mystery in order to survive.
Prediction: Another success for Jason Blum and the team which will connect with the cinema-going public. If it’s played right, it could offer a fresh take using a blend of fantasy and horror that could also spark a franchise
Feb 21 – Brahms: The Boy ll
This one is a bit of an oddity. Whilst its predecessor was a middle of the road affair and proved to be better than expected. It did feel like a one-off movie that didn’t necessarily warrant any further journey into the world of Brahms. A sequel is here though and will pick up with the doll being discovered by another family.
Prediction: A flop that will fall by the wayside and may not even make a blip on the radar.
Feb 27 – The Invisible Man
Another Blumhouse movie, this time in collaboration with Universal to resurrect their monsters franchise after the abysmal Tom Cruise vehicle from a few years ago. In what is potentially a ripe and current topic being explored in domestic violence as its central theme The Invisible Man boasts a cracking cast with Elisabeth Moss taking lead duties. It’s also in great hands with director Leigh Whannel steering the ship following his successful movie Upgrade from last year, plus Whannel is a storyteller, so expect a decent script to boot.
Prediction: The first big success of the year bringing the Universal monsters franchise back on track and paving the way for future projects with The Bride, Renfeld, The Invisible Woman, and Frankenstein.
Mar 20 – A Quiet Place Part 2
The question is whether director John Krasiniski can repeat the winning formula from the first movie. This War of the Worlds style feature with an audio twist is more sci-fi than horror, but with the family in plight scenario held a strong connection with the audience. How will this translate now that there is an absent father?
Prediction: Cillian Murphy will provide some much needed gravitas to the narrative which will be strong enough to lift the audience through with some decent ups and downs to wrench up the tension.
Apr 3 – The New Mutants
Since Disney took over Marvel operations, The New Mutants has been stuck in production, deemed a little dark for the House of Mouse questioning how to distribute it. The feature comes across as The Dream Warriors crossed with the X-Men and centres on 5 young mutants held in a secret facility against their will. It also boasts a cracking cast with Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones), Anya Taylor-Joy (The VVitch, Split), and Charlie Heaton (Stranger Things).
Prediction: Despite several delays I feel that this film is gonna connect in a big way and pull in a lot of people. It just depends on how dark Disney are willing to go with it.
Apr 17 – Antlers
Little is known about this movie other than it is based on a short story by Nick Antosca the creative mind behind the Channel Zero anthology series. The screenplay must have some potential to have caught the eye of Guillermo Del Toro and put his name down as producer.
Prediction: With Keri Russell in the cast to provide the fantasy elements in reality, this could well be the surprise hit of the year.
May 15 – Saw reboot
Currently titled The Organ Donor starring Chris Rock, Samuel L. Jackson and Max Minghella this reboot of the Saw franchise will see the return of the Jigsaw Killer, but without Tobin Bell… I think? With director Darren Lynn Bousman at the helm once more following his turn overseeing parts 2-4, he is no stranger to the world.
Prediction: Will put bums on seats for the shock gore factor alone, but will the buddy cop drama approach pay off? Time will tell.
Jun 11 – Candyman
This is gonna be a tough one to watch for me as I am such a huge fan of the original movie and like Freddy, Candyman would haunt my dreams for a long time after viewing. A lot of that has to do with the strength of Clive Barker’s short story coupled with Tony Todd’s personification of the titular character. Part of me is willing for this to be a success though as I can see room for the movie to be delivered to a modern audience using folklore and mythology at its core, and the storyline itself can transcend easily through the ages. It will be interesting to see a female perspective in director Nia DaCosta to follow Helen’s journalistic investigations.
Prediction: Jordan Peele has attached his name to this project and is clearly passionate about the story, but one can’t help but feel this is one step too far in rekindling the old flame that resides within the Candyman story.
Jul 2 – Ghostbuster: Afterlife
I know it’s technically not a horror film, but I’m including this in the mix for its nostalgic value in me the original movie paved the love of horror that I have and opened the door to many more glorious visions in the genre ever since. The original team will return in some shape or form, but primarily the film centres around a mother and her two children who set up on a farm only to discover something paranormal lurking in the town.
Prediction: Another film that will be resting on the merits of the first film, and while it’s great to see Jason Reitman take on the franchise following in his father’s footsteps, one can only hope that there will be enough comedy, horror and sci-fi to capture that old magic, but I think it will just be a glimmer rather than that sparkle.
Jul 10 – The Purge 5
Supposedly returning for the final instalment the 12 hour no holds-barred, crimefest ignited something in the movie-going audience. It has seen five feature length instalments and 2 seasons.
Prediction: More of the same, so if you’re a fan of the series, you’ll love it. I for one think the films are fun and enjoyable and it will be interesting to see how James DiMonaco will conclude things.
Jul 30 – Morbius
Sony has promised to take the Marvel universe into dark territory before with Venom and here they intend to do so again with Morbius, the Living Vampire. Jared Leto will no doubt bring the goods for the titular role and is in good company with Matt Smith, Jared Leto, and Tyrese Gibson.
Prediction: Director Daniel Espinosa provides great entertaining and solid movies, such as Safe House and Life, and I see no change here to his formula, but still question if they can go dark enough to make it compelling for horror fans.
Sep 11 – The Conjuring 3 aka The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It
The Conjuring universe has progressed in leaps and bounds since its initial release in 2013. There has been the odd blips, but essentially the films continue to entertain and scare audiences. This latest film will once again see the Warrens at the centre of proceedings, this time with one of their most publicised cases that bore witness to Arne Cheyenne Johnson claiming that he was possessed when he murdered.
Prediction: Solid acting, tight storyline, but may fall down with its delivery and exposition. Unfortunately Director Michael Chaves didn’t deliver with The Curse of La Llorona, so I fear that this may end up in a similar way, but am still willing to give it a chance.
Sep 17 – Last Night In Soho
Not much known about this one, but Edgar Wright has a knack for tapping the pulse of classic films and adapting their essence for a modern audience. This time around the psychological horror is inspired by Don’t Look Now and Polanski’s Repulsion both high in my all-time favourite lists
Prediction: A killer cast in Anya Taylor-Joy, Matt Smith, Diana Rigg, and Terence Stamp, this could be the ‘big hit’ of the year.
Oct 15 – Halloween Kills
In 2018, David Gordon Green, Danny McBride and Jason Blum attempted the impossible, the resurrection of Michael Myers that would connect both fans of the original and connect with a new audience. By delving into the subject of trauma and the impact that this has on its victims, Myers became both topical and harrowing. His sheer brutality and the force in which he attacks his victims made his carnage all the more disturbing.
Prediction: The name and sheer presence of Myers will bring the audience to the screens, but can they still make him relevant? They can’t rest on the nostalgic nods this time around. It’s a fine line to walk on, for if they get it wrong, they could find their final instalment, Halloween Ends a tricky sell.
TBC – Army of the Dead
For sheer shits and giggles, and action-pumped mayhem from visual storyteller Zack Snyder, about a group of mercenaries who decide to rob a casino during a zombie outbreak, this film concludes our list.
Prediction: Starring Dave Bautista, Army of the Dead will be entertaining if nothing else. A perfect answer for those just wanting to get their kicks and not have to think too deeply.
It’s been over 20 years since Canadian director, Vicenzo Natali left a highly impressionable mark with his directorial debut, Cube. It’s fair to say, that since then he has never quite had the same response from his movies, but always has a visual style that he draws upon to create his vision.
With In The Tall Grass, Natali’s sixth feature length feature (excluding the cancelled Tremors TV movie last year) it may have proven to be a step too far in translating a novella by Stephen King and Joe Hill into a 1 hour 40 min running time, as he stretches his vision across a broad canvas and in doing so, loses its appeal.
The premise is a simple one. A heavily pregnant Becky and her brother Cal are travelling to San Diego to give up her baby for adoption, when they pull up alongside a field of tall grass. It is here that the siblings hear the voice of a young boy calling for help. As soon as they enter the mysterious void, they fall into a labyrinth of despair that calls upon their wits to fight their way out.
Laboured with strong theology throughout, Becky and Cal must weave their way through the strange and everlasting land, but are constantly confronted by their own inner inhibitions. Doomed to repeat their actions with slight changes, the audience is treated to an insight into how often they try alternate methods, only to be lead back to the centre of the field and a mysterious rock that feeds on energy and life.
Accompanying them in the field is another family (a father, mother, and their son, Tobin), equally lost in their myriad of emotions and history. They are lead by an evangelical father figure, played by the magnificent Patrick Wilson, and his hammed up rampage is a much needed pulse to project the narrative forward.
Also introduced into the fold is Travis (Australian Harrison Gilbertson) Becky’s ex and father of the unborn child to provide some depth and dynamic interaction, as their fervour reaches fever pitch and leads the audience on a twisted, convoluted journey of redemption.
Natali seems to love project his protagonists into a tangled web of fear and resolution that shows the kernel of humanity at its core. In The Tall Grass propels this theme further, but is constantly bogged down in a merky plot that draws on and feels repetitive and predictable as it draws to its conclusion.
Like a cabin in the woods filled with a basement of evil paranormal beasties, this latest edition to The Conjuring universe features good ol’ 70s style babysitter shenanigans along with fresh new souls to welcome the return as, Annabelle Comes Home.
First time director, Gary Dauberman, is no stranger to the franchise having been screenwritter for Annabelle (2014), Annabelle: Creation (2017), and The Nun (2018) as well as the co-writer for the remake of Stephen King’s It (2017) and its upcoming sequel It Chapter Two (2019).
Annabelle Comes Home keeps audiences on the edge of their seats with an awesome sound design, some nice fake outs, creepy reveals, great gimmicks – providing you can look past a continuity error when one of the game pieces suddenly changes colour from red to green.
I HAVE TO take my hat off to James Wan, as he has slowly become a key player in the horror genre since Saw, which has generated a further six movies, and Insidious, which has collected four films within the franchise.
When The Conjuring was released back in 2013, I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome, Wan presented a tale that was both shocking and disturbing, which in my opinion belied the trailer.
I felt that it was a cheap and wanton concept, but was proved wrong with my expectations and thoroughly loved this movie.
The Conjuring would also spawn its own spinoff with the diabolically crap, Annabelle, and don’t get me started on the fact that this also has a sequel in the works.
But upon hearing that a sequel was in the works for The Conjuring and in particular based on The Enfield Haunting, my eyes lit up at the thought of a movie based around this tale as it was a subject close to heart and one of the earliest tales I can recall growing up that was allegedly based on real experiences.
But here’s the thing, and I’m prepared to be grilled by my next few words, but ultimately I was disappointed by the end result.
Now don’t get me wrong, The Conjuring 2 is still a very strong movie, where Wan uses all his usual tricks with light and shadow, and also has an intriguing spirit in the shape of The Crooked Man, with its jerky movements, it has that sense of unease and puppetry in motion that has become something of a calling card in his calibre of work.
Also of note is The Nun character who will also be getting her own movie spin-off. It’s a character that haunts and delights with good measure.
So what’s with the criticism you may ask?
Well, it purely comes down to originality. Here Wan offers nothing new to the storyline around the Warrens, which is a shame because they were such strong characters in the original and it feels like both Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson are underused in this. As is Frances O’Connor, an actress that I highly rate but feel she never really gets that moment to shine.
Ultimately though I don’t want to rain on the parade too much as I still look forward to Wan’s movies when they arrive as he has a way of crafting a story that keeps the audience captivated regardless.
Perhaps it’s a good thing that his next movie Aquaman will be a break from the horror circuit to rejuvenate his efforts in the dark world.
But let’s he doesn’t turn his back on it completely as something tells me there are more horrific stories lurking in his mind waiting to be told.
AS IT STANDSThe Conjuring is sandwiched in the middle of James Wan’s directorial career, nestled nicely alongside Insidious, which was released two years earlier.
When you combine this with the likes of Saw, Insidious 2 and now The Conjuring 2, Wan has firmly established himself as a master in the horror genre field.
This movie was potentially (and arguably) a game changer for Wan and is most certainly an indication of a man coming into his own within his craft.
Upon closer scrutiny, the film treads familiar ground centring on a family haunted by an evil, malevolent spirt, that wishes to do some serious harm to them all.
There are even obvious homages to the original Poltergeist movie, but where it starts to tread new ground and where Wan shines brightly is through his storytelling and excellent use of light and shadow.
The pace of the movie is handled with great care. The balance of tension is beautifully interspersed with scares. And when those scare come, they come with genuine spine-tingling reality.
In fact, part of the appeal of The Conjuring is through its gritty realism. Throw in some strong performances from Lili Taylor, Vera Farmiga, and Patrick Wilson, and you’ve got yourself a credible and believable movie that captivates and entertains throughout.
– Saul Muerte
For more insights on the film check out the podcast discussions below, but be warned, I handed over host duties to Mr Antony Yee for this one and he pushed the time limit just a tad. But not without his charm and knowledge thrown into the mix.