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.
In Enfield, North London, Single mother Peggy Hodgson and her children find themselves victim to a vicious haunting by a demonic entity that seems determined to torture and drive them from their home. This haunting draws the attention of veteran paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren who arrive in London to investigate the hauntings and hopefully help the Hodgson’s banish the entity once and for all.
The first Conjuring film is something of a rarity for a horror film in that it was a true horror blockbuster, enjoying both critical praise and box office success raking in over $300 million worldwide making it one of the most financially successful horror films of all time.
Obviously with this being the era of the franchise, the powers that be set about kick-starting a whole shared universe centred around the various ghouls and ghosts encountered by the Warrens. Unfortunately, the first such follow-up was the rather lacklustre Annabelle (read my review here) that seemed to suggest a string of lesser follow-ups to come.
Thankfully, what we got instead was a return to the mother ship with The Conjuring 2, a film that puts the franchise back on the right path and opens up a whole new world of ghoulish possibilities for this burgeoning horror universe.
Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga reprise their roles of Ed and Lorraine Warren respectively, slipping back into the characters with ease and grace. It’s like they never left. Their chemistry as sparkling as always, Wilson and Farmiga are once more commanding presences on screen, kind and understanding to the people they help, but also imposing and powerful forces when they need to go toe to toe with whatever demonic entity tries to take them on. I also have to give extra props to Wilson for his intoxicating levels of charm in this film, and on his honestly solid singing skills as he channels Elvis in one particular sweet scene that brings some welcome brevity to an otherwise intense watch.
Joining Wilson and Farmiga is a fine supporting cast of familiar British faces, such as Frances O’Connor as the tormented Peggy, managing to create a forceful yet sympathetic character, with often seeming like she’s ready to thump the demonic entity with a rolling pin and tell it to “piss off”. We also have a great turn from veteran “oh that guy” Simon McBurney as British paranormal investigator Maurice Grosse who proves himself to be a welcome cool headed British counterbalance to Ed and Lorraine’s American bravado.
The production design on the film is a welcome return to form after the rather cheap looking Annabelle, with the production crew managing to create an authentic looking recreation of a 1970s North London council house that’s seen better days. The walls are suitably grimy, the wallpaper ready to peel off, floorboards can’t help but creak morning noon and night, and the TV is awash with true terrors such as The Goodies and Margaret Thatcher. It’s all terrific stuff and demonstrates what you can build a good horror set if you just give the film-makers a proper budget to work with.
The film also attempts to tackle some of the more controversial aspects of both the Warrens and the Enfield haunting such as the fact that it might all just be a hoax. The film tackles these controversies well and attempts to give a balanced view of both the sceptics and the believing Warrens, although it does fall into the familiar trap of portraying sceptical academics as pompous and smug. I personally don’t believe in the supernatural and I personally don’t believe that the Warren’s encountered any real supernatural entity. That being said, the story of the Warrens, even if it is bollocks, still makes for a great film franchise.
Of course, as with any horror film, it’s the scares that matter the most and director James Wan and his team hit all the right notes once more, utilising the familiar jump scares but in just the right amount so they don’t become insufferable. Wan and co also welcomely bring in some more subtle tricks such as hiding the monsters in plain sight in the corners of the screen, or in one rather clever move right behind the heroes but just out of focus. The creatures on display are certainly a lot more frightening than the Annabelle doll (only just) with the figure of the ghoulish Crooked Man (soon to be the star of his own film) looking like something from child’s nightmare come to life.
The only real flaw with the scares, and the film at large, is that it doesn’t really bring anything new to the series. If anything, this film does at times feel very much like a UK based retread of the original film. A family has to contend with ghosts, people think they’re lying, the Warren’s rock up and tell the demon to hit the road with all sorts of screaming, roaring and property damage in between. It’s all very familiar stuff.
Although, in all fairness, it’s very much of a case of what worked the first time will work again, and for the most part, it does still work with the film being another exhilarating and exciting haunted house ride that is more than a match for the brilliance of the original. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it I guess.
With stellar turns once more from Wilson and Farmiga, a fine supporting cast, fantastic pacing that quickens with your pulse and an overall exhilarating feeling of fear and excitement that leaves you exhausted but satisfied by the time the credits roll, The Conjuring 2 is a welcome return to form for the series that leaves me excited as to what comes next. Check this one out.
Scare Rating: ? ? ? ?
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★