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, 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.
Prior to the screening of The Conjuring 2, director James Wan declared his love of the great Hammer Horrors of the 40s/50s. If only he had the know-all to transfer this adoration to the creepy, if wholly unremarkable and quite extraordinarily unoriginal horror sequel. It’s predecessor, 2013s The Conjuring – although in and among the landfill horror churned out with factory made precision had the façade of remarkability-borrowed freely from everything from The Amityville Horror, to set pieces seemingly taken without care from The Exorcist. It’s sequel, if slightly superior, again falters in its almost abrasive lack of originality.
We find Lorraine and Ed Warren, who following a disturbing séance in Amityville and a series of misjudged television appearances are attempting a life of anonymity. Lorraine, haunted by distressing visions, wants to all but retire; Ed seems to be open for a return. Their ultimate return leads them to idyllic Enfield, where a young girl’s sleep is interrupted by an entity in hope for the return of his home.
Amongst the confined spaces of blanket forts and narrow corridors, Wan finds grandeur. As with its predecessor, Wan – alongside DP Don Burgess, shoots wide with long expansive takes. Rooms, although small, seem to drown in empty space, space in which the more successful scares are confidently mined. Less successful scares stem from the trite quiet….quiet…LOUD cliché while a blur of CGI late on result in a lesser, unconvincing Babadook style spook.
At 138 minutes, the film suffers from vast chasms of nothingness. Where scares are sparse, Wan in place finds faux-existentialism and bizarre-if not slightly charming-odes to Elvis. It’s opening, a tired and almost pointless extended prologue to its predecessor, leans all to heavily on exposition with clunky road signs aimed squarely at the cine-illiterate, while the film culminates on a seemingly never-ending shouting match against ghostly apparitions. A shame then, that moments of quiet drama seem to hint at something greater, in fact, there’s a certain discerning allure to this ramshackle mish-mash of horror and introspective drama.
Discussions of skepticism similarly hint at a film with more interest in ideology than that of vacuous scares. Franka Potente turns up sporadically where and when she so pleases, to declare the whole ghostly farce exactly that.
Young star Madison Wolfe – who uncannily recalls a young Natalie Portman – handles the screams with the experience of a great scream queen and moments of intimacy with pathos rarely seen amongst young actors. It helps that alongside a series of impressive performances the ever brilliant Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga bring with them a relationship that has the feel of something resembling reality.
It’s strange; exactly how far one can come to praise The Conjuring 2 seems to go hand-in-hand with cine-literacy. In borrowing freely from films superior, it falters, only ever bringing to mind products better. Yet in this façade of originality, there are scares, moments creep and creak along, on few occasions rousing genuine terror. Amidst Blumhouse mining terror from the dullest of places to little effect, there’s an old-fashioned, if unremarkable charm to what Wan achieves. It may not live long in the mind, but The Conjuring 2 – while in its company – is a distracting, sometimes creepy affair.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★