In our continuing tour of contemporary horror, this weekend’s film was James Wan’s 2013 The Conjuring. I’m not entirely sure why North Americans hit mass hysteria, picketed cinemas and preached sermons, it’s a fairly fantastical yarn, but beyond that, it’s a very classy movie - I really enjoyed it.
What’s also quite interesting about it, and this isn’t a spoiler at all, though I’ll tag it anyway, but throughout the entire film not a single character dies, and this becomes fairy evident half-way into it. I think this may be part of why the new-school horrors divide audiences, they tend not to follow many of the old tropes any more and instead follow interesting human narratives and more genuine psychological vulnerability. As per my comments on Oculus, the pacing is exquisite and never once out of control or spilling out into a cascade of muddled escalation. There’s a wonderful discipline at work, here, and I really appreciate it.
If there was one thing I found odd about Wan’s and/or his cinematographer John Leonetti’s choice of photography, it’s at times there’s a wee bit of handheld that comes off as super contemporary. I appreciate the effect is intended to put you in the perspective of the characters within the environment, but the style of hand-held utilised is a very recent one, I guess that’s just a film-literacy thing coming out so those less aware of it may not pick up on it. For a film set in the seventies, though, for the most part, colour treatments, photographic style and framing are all spot-on and wonderfully created.
Rok did tell me the photography in its sequel really steps up and we watched the first twenty minutes of it before it got super late and I really had to take-off and get back home, otherwise I was hooked and yes, it really does improve.
The other film I saw this weekend was Daphne at MIFF from first time feature director Peter Mackie Burns, a Scottish guy who lives in London. It was good, I really liked it - the eponymous Daphne is a cynical and whipsmart young woman working hard and scraping by in London, in full control of her life and heavily critical of everything and everyone around her. While not perfectly written, the film still does a great job of making her endearing, vulnerable and yet also justifiably unapologetic for her character which I liked. She knows something’s not right and decides to change - how she changes isn’t important, just that she recognises it, and it’s a mark of maturity by the writer/director that Burns doesn’t pander and explain and perfectly resolve Daphne’s resolution. She’s just as acidic and critical at the conclusion as she ever was, but she’s going somewhere now, and I like that - it’s my kind of resolved-unresolve, in a sense.
I’ve seen a fair few films in this vein before, a few others that I’ve preferred over it, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad by any means - if you read the synopsis in the MIFF guide and it sounds appealing to you, I encourage you to go see it if it’s still showing. Burns himself was there at our screening and he’s a charming person as you’d expect, open and eager to discuss his work. I feel as though this kind of project is part of perhaps his desired trajectory in film-making and I wish him the best of luck, he certainly has some skills.