“The Conjuring” cinematic universe/series has been a horror ride of varying degrees. It’s had its great highs and its depressing lows (Ahem—“Annabelle”), and in spite of delivering two genuine horror classics, the mainline movie series can’t quite escape the dreaded curse of the third film. While “The Devil Made Me Do It” is not at all a bad movie per se, it’s not high in scares or tension as the first two films. The first two movies relied on mounting tension and absolute terror, while “The Devil Made Me Do It” feels a lot more like if they took the series and tried to turn it in to a crime procedural.
Director Leigh Janiak’s creation of the “Fear Street” trilogy has to be one of the most impressive cinematic accomplishments this year. It’s tough to find a horror trilogy where every film feels different, but clicks together like a puzzle, so seamlessly. “Fear Street” had every chance of being a complete mess, especially with how it goes backward in time to fill in the gaps in its narrative. Not to mention the fact that it trusts audiences will return is ambitious and often impressive.
One of the many aspects of “Fear Street” that always set them apart from the “Goosebumps” books is that RL Stine relied a lot on folklore. With the “Fear Street” series, it depended a lot on the folklore and urban legend aesthetic, exploring more universal themes usually found there. There were always ideas about revenge, and mystery killers, and inherent terrifying nature of Halloween, and yes, even vampires. Fear Street always had something new to offer readers, and the movie carries that tradition.
The witch of Pungo legend is interesting enough on its own, but when all was said and done, I don’t know if it warranted a movie. Director Cook uses the legend vaguely as a means of setting the stage for a larger scale narrative, as well as paying tribute to Virginia. In fact, the Virginia born director casts all Virginia based actors. It’s an admirable aspect to a movie that sadly falls apart and feels confused both in tone and genre. By the time the climax rolls around it never really makes up its mind.
“The Conjuring” is a series I hope studios keep re-visiting (with some caveats—ahem—“Annabelle”), since there’s so much they can do with the case files of Ed and Lorraine Warren. At this point the movie has taken many of their actual cases and expanded them in to wonderful horror films and “The Devil Made Me Do It” is no exception. True it’s not as good as the first two films, but the third part in the core movie series really does help to emphasize the heroism of Ed and Lorraine.
I’m one of the traditionalists that think Studio Ghibli should have stuck to hand drawn animation, but sometimes there’s just no fighting change. With “Earwig and the Witch” there’s so much new, that you’re almost tricked in to forgetting that the movie almost has no real narrative. At all. This is one of Studio Ghibli’s more aimless movies that doesn’t have a whole lot to it. Substantially, the movie packs in some great animation, and it’s quite startling how some of the motion for some scenes looks so realistic. I’m not going to say that the movie is an accomplishment in regards to Ghibli because Pixar has pulled off so much better.
Hell, Dreamworks has accomplished so much more with this medium.
“Unholy” stars horror veteran Adrienne Barbeau who does her best to cope with the material she’s given in this shlocky, dull ghost film. In one of the only gripping moments of the film, Barbeau’s character Martha arrives home for her daughter Hope’s birthday to find her in the basement preparing to commit suicide. Truly, Barbeau and co-star Siri Baruc sell this moment sans any dramatic pitch in the score. Subsequently, director Daryl Goldberg can never seem to break out of the vicious cycle of clichés, predictable plot twists, nor enough to provide material that will put the talents of its infinitely small cast to work.
In small, rural village where nothing is growing and people are dying, a woman has her crops thriving and seems to be doing great, so her village’s population deems her to be a witch. While she is hiding an important secret, it may not be what the villagers are expecting.