Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5. USA, 2016. New Line Cinema, RatPac-Dune Entertainment, The Safran Company, Atomic Monster. Story by Carey Hayes, Chad Hayes, James Wan, Screenplay by Carey Hayes, Chad Hayes, James Wan, David Leslie Johnson. Cinematography by Don Burgess. Produced by Rob Cowan, Peter Safran, James Wan. Music by Joseph Bishara. Production Design by Julie Berghoff. Costume Design by Kristin M. Burke. Film Editing by Kirk M. Morri.
The powerhouse team who cleaned out a rural American family’s poltergeist infestation is back at it for another ghostbusting adventure, this time taking them as far as England where an impoverished single mom (Frances O’Connor) and her four children are being terrorized by moving furniture and strange apparitions. Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga) are first seen investigating the now-infamous Amityville mystery, one which provides the clairvoyant Lorraine with a vision so potent that it provokes her to want to give up their ghost-hunting for good. She is dogged by the presence of a monstrous nun with a bloody mouth (which provides for the film’s scariest moments) while across the pond O’Connor and her brood are being woken up by disturbances in the form of a creepy old man who reminds one of a Pixar character and will not leave their abode. The Warrens are eventually convinced to get back in business and pay a visit, trying to understand what is bothering the family and why they are suffering these problems, slowly unraveling clues that lead toward a big, violent climax. It’s about as credible as any mainstream horror movie that claims to be based on a true story (see Requiem for an example of why this is only technically a correct claim), but there’s a guilty pleasure in many of the clever sequences that do provide chills. Where it falters is where many in the genre do, for while it thankfully is light on gore and trauma, the film could do with more levity and less levitation. The fact that Farmiga and Wilson are fully committed to their performances is no slight against them, but thanks to a director who takes himself far too seriously and doesn’t allow for any intelligent skepticism they both come off total hacks, while the generous running time of 140 minutes is far too much for a film that portrays the doubtful character (Franka Potente) with no integrity and perpetually behaves like a true believer. How many times can a little girl speak with that hoary voice and then faint back into herself before her siblings to start to find her annoying and use her to get out of going to school or doing chores? Great production values and a far better supporting cast than a film like this deserves (also including Simon McBurney and Maria Doyle Kennedy), but the sequences involving the nun are the better part of the story and the film’s pretensions at recreating the gritty realism of The Exorcist are more laughable the harder it tries (and just look at that production design…it tries).