The Conjuring 2, 2016.
Directed by James Wan.
Starring Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Frances O’Connor, Madison Wolfe, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Simon Delaney, Franka Potente, Simon McBurney, Lauren Esposito, Robin Atkin Downes, Bob Adrian, Bonnie Aarons, Javier Botet, Patrick McAuley, and Benjamin Haigh.
Lorraine and Ed Warren travel to north London to help a single mother raising four children alone in a house plagued by malicious spirits.
Director James Wan (Saw, The Conjuring, the Insidious franchise, Furious 7) is consistently expanding his technique and is ever-evolving as a masterful horror maestro. His strength has always been excelling at conjuring up (yes, I really couldn’t resist writing this review without using the word in that context) a chilly atmosphere that is eerily haunted by supernatural forces, and he seems to be reaching his maximum potential in that department with The Conjuring 2.
Within the first five minutes is a brief taste of the nightmare inducing content that is to come, showcasing famed paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) conducting a seance that allows viewers to witness Loraine’s terrifying vision from her perspective. However, at one point during the unnerving sequence is a tightly composed frame of Lorraine delving further into her disturbing search, while off in the background at the dinner table Ed is visible consoling Lorraine’s physical body, passionately attempting to bring her back into the land of reality.
That one shot is a testament to the fact that by now, James Wan is an accomplished horror filmmaker that doesn’t just understand the genre, but also has a knack for composing intriguing cinematography, and just generally putting in a little extra work, to make not just The Conjuring 2, but all of his movies and sequels come across as anything but a Hollywood cash-grab. Putting it bluntly, James Wan is having a blast inventively canvassing scenes that will effectively scare the living shit out of you.
Accounting for the attention to detail in the Enfield London home (the real site of the demonic possessions in The Conjuring 2), moviegoers will be unable to help noticing a wide variety of portraits and paintings on display within the household, but more to the point is that they are so carefully placed into the scenery, there are times when in darkness, viewers will not be able to tell the difference between a spirit and one of his aforementioned pictures. Trust me, it also makes for one of the greatest and scariest moments of the whole movie.
What makes The Conjuring 2 stand a cut above the rest of the films in its genre (aside from not being a piece of garbage like trash already released this year such as The Boy, The Forest, and The Other Side of the Door) is its unwillingness to settle for a one-track mind focused on raising the hairs on your spine. Early on in the movie, the Warrens are under stressing accusations of fraudulent investigations, which is something that actually happened. It’s something that I researched following watching the original movie, but never really decided to pass a definitive judgment on for myself, because all that matters in this situation was that I enjoyed what I saw.
It would be far easier for James Wan to make a movie that glamorizes everything about these renowned paranormal investigators, glossing over a few things that people might not want to hear, but instead he chooses to treat his audience with intelligence and respect. He wisely and carefully constructs this into a subplot expressing that what really matters, is what Ed and Lorraine Warren saw themselves, and that whether we choose to believe them or not is irrelevant.
The reason that the subplot effectively works is also much more complex than that, for The Conjuring 2 also chooses to characterize the duo’s relationship, quickly but poignantly touching on the bonds that drove them together to the point of marriage, and the philosophy that two loving individuals should follow each other anywhere no matter what, even if the consequences could potentially be dire. Realistically, most horror films don’t have empathetic or likable heroes at all, but in The Conjuring franchise, Ed and Lorraine are depicted as real people, and presented as how their real-life counterparts might act. Furthermore, much credit must be given to Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga for taking the acclaimed historical pair seriously, bringing them to the big screen with authenticity and charm.
Unfortunately, the sequel does pale in comparison to the original in quite a few ways. The family being haunted here is likewise very sympathetic, complete with some great performances from young child actors that effectively emulate the escalating terror they are battling every day (and a wicked demonic voice-over performance from the reliable Robin Atkin Downes, who is featured in many different video games), but the actual case being investigated this time around slightly lacks in mystery and intrigue. There are still a few twists and turns, but it is nowhere near as compelling as the original film, which also climaxed with an actual exorcism. The final 20 minutes here are also very well done, but when placing the two movies side-by-side it’s hard not to give The Conjuring the edge.
It doesn’t help that much of The Conjuring 2 suffers from a syndrome of going from horrifying moment to horrifying moment without actually inserting much narrative context outside of the relationship between the Warrens. This would all be well and good if the movie were around 90 minutes, but The Conjuring 2 runs 134 minutes, and while it will never test your patience and make you wish it was almost over, you can’t help but feel that some of this is filler and could have been trimmed down.
Even so, The Conjuring 2 is a very layered horror film that doubly serves as a bizarre romance about two unorthodox individuals that have come together, and more importantly, have faith in one another. Downtime sequences from terror such as Ed playing guitar and singing “Can’t Help Falling In Love” by Elvis Presley show that there is more on director James Wan’s mind than senseless horror and otherworldly possessions. He has something to say, and with each passing film it increasingly becomes hard not to want to place him among the horror greats such as John Carpenter and Wes Craven. It should also be noted that just like the original movie, The Conjuring 2 isn’t rated R for excessively dropping F-bombs or indulging in blood and gratuitous violence, but rather because the MPAA (who admittedly are questionable at times) find the movie so terrifying, it deserves no other certification.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★