It’s nearly impossible for any horror fan not to hear about the film The Conjuring 2 (and the pending part 3), the sequel to the mighty first one, that has a similar storyline and structure of a slow burn, haunting and a dependable crew and a wonderful cast delivering the scares. Director James Wan returns to helm this vehicle of terror, he’s considered by many as the latest king of horror, rising well from his stingy Stygian (2000) his first horror flick and since steadily increase the craft of scaring people wonderfully well. As Conjuring (part 1) became a box office successful, $259-milion worldwide, everyone in the horror genre, now this opened the door to narrative haunted house stories and a of course a bigger budget for the sequel, of $40-million (doubling the first one). The ever-changing landscape of trends, in the horror genre found the found footage becoming very dull, and zombies everywhere made every stagger more tiresome; hence, Wan lent his mischievous hands designing classic ghost tales. Wan though cannot create the madness alone, his team of writers, the formula for scare-fest into a popcorn munching and spring-loaded jumps wonderful, and David Johnson, Chad and Carey Hayes flank him. Wan continues to make his own path, with the Saw films, and Insidious, then venturing out for Furious 7 (2015) and then surprising bypass an undisclosed large sum of money for Fast 8 (2017), as he returned to the horror realm for this film. This deals with the real-life events in Enfield, England and the haunting and possession in one poor family, though Wan ask for one unique request before the movie production a priest to bless the set.
As with the first movie, this opens with an eerie caveat, the infamous and legendary haunting at the Amityville house in Long Island, New York, thereby establishing the time-frame as well, the case help and hinder the Warren’s existence. Although, not as stellar and scary as the Annabelle introduction it still sends a shiver down the unsuspecting spine of a viewer, there in less than 15-minutes, Wan delivers a frightening series of quick dramatic moments than the entire Amityville Horror franchise, opens a door to the nun. Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) relives the brutal killings conducted by Ronald DeFeo, Jr. the man who massacred his whole family (six people, the youngest 9-years-old) within those walls, done in a fascinating and very originally manner issuing a stressful moment for her character and to viewers. After a few years, the paranormal lifestyle taking a toll more so on Lorraine than her loving husband, Ed (Patrick Wilson), and the battles of evil and skeptics hurting them. The haunting of Amityville rattles the nerves of Lorraine and confronts Ed of stopping the battle, visions plaguing her, wearing her faith thin, and ghoulish demons teasing, along with images of his death. Herein, the moment truly winning over the audience to care about the Warrens, their passion and loving family, especially from the concerned husband, Ed, very genuine moment. Lorraine is unable to shake visions of a demonic nun (Bonnie Aarons) more about her later in this review, all weighing on her Christian love of wife and family values, as they live in a home sharing space with possessed supernatural items. Meanwhile, in Brimsdown, Enfield, England, a single mother Peggy Hodgson (Frances O’Connor) and her four children (Madison Wolfe, Lauren Esposito, Benjamin Haigh and Patrick McAuley) are living in poverty, thanks to deadbeat husband fathering twins around the corner. Their situation dire, shortages of money, happiness, and food, plague the merger life, a home not fit doe anyone aside from the demon and ghostly occurrences. Which when they occur the family does what all common scene individual should do in a horror movie but never do, flee, to the kind neighbors. The scene involving the police also adds to a bit of comical maneuver to ease the tension before slowly inching the mechanism of suspense and fright for the audience. Madison Wolfe, excellent young actress, handles a vast range of psychological torments and intense physical abuse, after she creates a homemade Ouija board. Her talents remind all horror fans of another child actor, Linda Blair, of The Exorcist (1973); she garners the talent and support from the care of Warrens and transcends it to the audience. Another demonic villain, comes from the Crooked Man, is not CGI rather played by the very real Javier Botet, generating an exceptionally wonderful scare. Warrens become involved, when the church calls on their assistance, and soon become defenders of the family and battling the demons and professor of psychology Anita Gregory (Franka Potente) a skeptic that no one likes, especially the viewers. The real Enfield poltergeist is one of the most documented cases of paranormal activity in history, and differs highly from the movie, one’s fact and other fiction, however the line blurs often. Wan takes advantage of every opportunity and moment to dial up the scares, balancing the moments of suspense and scares with warm loving values and lull the audience to calmness, before ratcheting up more dark hallways, shadowy corners, noises & the surprise scares. Overall, he treats the audience with respect by presenting smart characters and capable actors conveying genuine care for them.
The nun, her appearance came from trust of the producers in Wan, as her involvement came at the 11th hour of production, costing valuable time and dollars for the reshoots and removing a generalized demon with horns (yawn). It was conjured to show a sinister laugh at Lorraine’s waning faith in the scriptures and the Lord, and that prides the demons and the devil himself, to crush the weak and cast away the love of Jesus, and destroy the Holy Ghost. A great touch to have an original name demon, “Valak”, in fact, a real demon, a sixty-second spirit, which also named as the Great President of Hell, though not portrayed in the film, riding a two-headed dragon, as a small child with wings and commanding 30 legions of demons. Sadly, shown merely as creepy ghastly nun and while she Bonnie takes on the role with vigor, the child brings a playful cunning lure, nevertheless the Wan’s tone delivers shock and awe.
This movie creates a slow burn of mysterious on-goings and ominous noises, designed to raise your senses and lure one into a punishing series of terrorizing moments. Wan delivers tricks and treats in an endless attack of the scenes, only missing a feel of a 4-D theater, otherwise has an effective stunning movie that excels the visuals nicely and produces grandiose shots, regardless of range. Although he overuses the big spectacular scares a tad, too much he does hone the artistry for the tight or zooming shots to a dizzy dazzling array of effects generating repeat thrills and screams. That will punish your eardrums, flying furniture and everything else in Wan’s bag of tricks. The score heightens the heart rates of many, set designs match thoroughly well to era the film fits into, and all of it works to bring more tense moments. Yes, a tad too much CGI overwhelms, with a bit overpowering explosions and less practical effects, yet it isn’t the biggest distraction in the movie, that comes the duration of the movie. I’m a strong believer that horror movies shouldn’t go beyond two hours, 90-minutes the standard bearing for the genres and perhaps to 100, only a few movies can sustain the payoff of that commitment and most borders on psychological thrillers. Now, yes The Exorcist (1973), was over 2hrs, and nearly so for the The Omen (1976), and some note Dawn of the Dead (1978), went against this norm, however The Conjuring 2’s runtime is 2-hrs and 14-mins, and never quite needs all that time to tell the entire tale. Only few movies can endure 2+ hrs a recall of some the recent epics in the action or drama genres – The Towering Inferno (1974); Dances with Wolves (1990); Glory (1989); Titanic (1997); Heat (1995); Gladiator (2000); The Silence of the Lambs (1991).
There’s only so much that the audience can endure in a horror movie, sooner or later the roller-coaster comes to an end, and that ride known as The Conjuring 2 needs a restful conclusion, the action sequences, sound and visual effects lasting well past there useful, and slip slightly into a redundant scenario. Wan and his team issues the command from the power Valak to onslaught the weak with tremendous gloomy, scary thrill ride and face it is the reason one watches these movies, for the scares!
This review originally posted on the Rogue Cinema site in July 2016, had 1,542 views.
IMDb Rating: 7.4/10
Baron’s Rating: 8/10