The Conjuring 2

'The Conjuring 2' movie poster

Release: Friday, June 10, 2016

[Theater]

Written by: James Wan; Carey Hayes; Chad Hayes; David Leslie Johnson

Directed by: James Wan

The horror event of the year has arrived and no one is safe. Not the Warrens from nightmarish visions; not the British family whose home turns into a petri dish for malevolent spirits; not James Wan from criticism. I don’t want to spoil anything and say it’s all going to be okay for everyone, but at least for Wan it will be. He’s back with a fresh set of haunting images in The Conjuring 2, a literal spiritual sequel to the 2013 smash hit that found real-life paranormal activity investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) coming to the rescue of an innocent Rhode Island family.

The Conjuring established itself as elite horror in terms both commercial and critical, raking in roughly seven times its production budget ($20 million) in American box office receipts alone. Though Wan relied heavily on the jump scare tactic to rattle audiences, he compensated for familiarity by developing characters that were, for once, well worth embracing, particularly in the Warrens. The net effect? These people have become endeared to us, and now in their second outing, we dread what lies ahead because now we too are experienced.

It is true: The Conjuring 2 is really just more of the same stuff. Instead of the Perrons we are introduced to the (very British) Hodgsons. We watch as another family is torn apart without mercy. But isn’t that what we wanted anyway? Back then it became apparent, and fairly quickly, that audiences were willing to pay to become highly strung-out. And while we’re on the subject, let’s dispel a myth: the mark of a good horror film is measured by the stress it induces rather than how many times it physically startles you; if you want something scary, watch a war film or this year’s American presidential elections.

Did we not want a supernatural tale that feels undeniably human and that satiates, via convincing special effects and odd camera placements, our morbid curiosity for what on the surface appears to be demons rising from the underworld? How would it not be fair for us to anticipate another signature exorcism (with apologies to William Friedkin, of course) to wrap things up? The fairly familiar beats The Conjuring 2 delivers are everything we asked for. And then some.

This is less of a retread than you might think, and its foundation isn’t built upon dollars and cents. There’s a legitimate reason we’re going through this again. The haunting in Enfield represents another terrifying case file in the Warrens’ infamous career. There’s a sophistication about proceedings absent in lesser, cheaper offerings, the sort of B-flicks that would be more fun if they weren’t so painfully obviously rushed off the assembly line. Wan, a director who lives, eats and breathes horror, seizes the opportunity to delve further into the lives of the paranormal investigators and to provide a cinematic experience that could go on to be as difficult to forget as its predecessor.

Once again he uses love, not hate, as a driving force. We already know how capable the Warrens are — their many decorated shelves back home are testament to years of dangerous, grueling work — but this time they’re genuinely vulnerable, with Lorraine having a difficult time ridding herself of visions she’s been having since their Amityville days. Her husband’s concerned though he remains keenly aware of the hippocratic oath that binds them to their duties. That’s not the only moral conundrum addressed. The Warrens’ public image comes under fire when skeptics start coming out of the woodwork, including a live television debate that incenses the Warrens and, later, Franka Potente’s Anita Gregory, who challenges the pair directly over the validity of any of their claims, past and present. Media also play a role in creating, even influencing, perception.

The Enfield poltergeist (incidentally the project’s working and far superior title) is a being of exceptional power and takes as much pleasure in tormenting the Warrens as it does single mother Peggy Hodgson (Frances O’Connor). O’Connor, saddled with the unenviable task of mimicking Ellen Burstyn as she bears witness to severe behavioral changes in younger daughter Janet (Madison Wolfe), commits to the single-mom archetype with ferocity. Fortunately for her, her story takes a backseat to how the Warrens respond to the latest call. This particular phantom takes on many forms, both clichéd (an old bitter man named Bill Wilkins) and more novel (green-eyed nuns and crooked men who move like the Babadook). While the evil is diluted somewhat by flimsy justification — Bill just wants the family to stop squatting in his house — its physical appearance is more than enough to disturb.

As was the case in The Conjuring, where we got to know the Perron family to the point where fate and consequence actually meant something to us, this is so much more than a ghost story. The spotlight falls more intensely on the Warrens this time around. Now it’s less about their expertise as it is about unwavering faith, about the deep love and trust these people have in one another. The Enfield case has haunted England ever since 1977, and manifested as one of the Warrens’ most notable challenges, if for no other reason than how personal everything became. Lorraine is convinced taking this job could spell disaster, and she pleads with her husband that, if they are to visit, they’ll operate in a more observational capacity rather than going fully hands-on. Of course, none of that matters when push really comes to shove.

I’m with Lorraine here. I’m not sure who else is, but I can’t be alone. I’m perfectly okay with playing the part of observer. I’d rather not get my hands dirty. Sitting back and watching lives fall apart amidst typically dull England weather is emotionally taxing enough for me. Touché, James Wan. You’ve made me believe sequels to horror films actually can be good.

Screen Shot 2016-06-11 at 5.29.02 PM

Recommendation: Highly anticipated horror sequel manifests as a potent elixir featuring dramatic, thriller and even romance elements that help steer it away from films cut from the same cloth. As someone who has yet to experience the Insidious franchise, I can’t say whether these are Wan’s best efforts, but there’s little use in denying he has officially established himself as the go-to director when it comes to big-budget horror. This was so good I personally see no reason why a third and fourth couldn’t be produced. Like, I am actually asking for more for once. 

Rated: R

Running Time: 134 mins.

Quoted: “It’s so small and light!”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com

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27 thoughts on “The Conjuring 2

  1. Pingback: Independence Day: Resurgence | digitalshortbread

    • Cheers my man. I have seen a few others recently that I am grateful for seeing, but yeah as far as really big time, studio-produced horror goes today The Conjuring seems to be the gold standard. I loved the second. I loved the emphatic reliance on the Warrens’ relationship to get through. Made this feel very real and human and man there were some genuinely creepy moments throughout.

  2. Pingback: Baskin | digitalshortbread

    • Amityville was a famous haunting that’s received its own set of movies (there was the original in the late 70s and then a remake with Ryan Reynolds in 2005, which was basically crap). It’s been the subject of a lot of different horrors but James Wan uses it for context here, opening the film with the Warrens’ experiences there.

  3. Really liked the first one, thought it was a solid horror flick and glad to hear this one’s good too. Rare to see horror sequels these days that are actually good.

    • I know man! So rare to find. The Conjuring 2 may be “more of the same” but in this case I think that’s a very good thing.

    • Ooooooooooooohhh!! (That was supposed to be a ghost noise.)

      Horrors I’ve been getting into more lately these days. I’ve seen a few things that are changing my opinion on them. Most of the time I’m never ‘scared,’ at least in the traditional definition of the word, but I do get stressed out a lot. I can understand why people don’t want to pay to get stressed out at the theaters lol

  4. I enjoyed this too. In a year where every sequel seems to under-perform, here we have a film that almost matched its predecessor. Why? Because it’s actually as good, maybe even better, than the original. Like the first, I didn’t think The Conjuring 2 was innovative, but it does the job with class and style. Nice review!

    • Exactly, it was definitely more of the same but for once, that was all Ir elaly needed to get a great experience. Perhaps Wan goes overboard on the number of jump scares but I can’t lie; some of them were pretty memorable moments. I also thought the relocation was appropriate and I wouldn’t mind seeing another one of these if all the people come back.

  5. Definitely now looking forward to this. I might even trip out to see it sometime soon, sounds like it is worth the watch.

    • I truly hope you enjoy it. It hasn’t been an unmitigated success as I’ve seen several reviews that are more critical of it but overall this thing is solid. I could go for more, too! 😀

  6. Interesting post… in that it seems a bit different from the first, which I hated and really seem to have missed what everyone else loved. Perhaps a re-watch is required? But this sounds different enough that I’m willing to go check it out.

    I also loved you referring to horror as ” this year’s American presidential elections.” Hehehe, too true

    • If you hated the first, you won’t get along with the second. Conjuring 2 is more of the same but for me that was perfect.

        • I mean it just might not be your thing. I personally don’t go much for standard haunted house movies but I’m more likely to when they’re well-written and I have always liked James Wan since the days of Saw. . .

          • hmmm.. I might go see it and see if the cinema setting helps, cos I only saw the original at home… tho I do have blackout curtains and a big sound-system

  7. I have no doubt that this is extremely scar and very effective at what it’s trying to do. And I will probably never watch it.

    • Haha yeah The Conjuring 2 has a few pretty heart-stopping moments. I dug it! And I’m not the world’s biggest fan of horror, either. 🙂

  8. Spot on! He sets up such a great universe with the first two films that it’s hard not to want more. Glad you dug it!

    • Yes indeed. I dug it a lot. I was prepared to come out disappointed, really, given how much I liked the original. This is how horror sequels should be done, boys and girls.

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