MPAA Rating: R/ Genre: Horror/ Stars: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Frances O’Connor, Madison Wolfe, Simon McBurney, Franka Potente, Lauren Esposito/ Runtime: 134 minutes
At this stage in the horror genre’s long, and honestly quite the roller-coaster ride worthy, history of, as well as their deep affinity for, paranormal hauntings, “true” stories, and, of course, projects with lots of sequel potential, so they can keep getting more and more of your hard-earned money, I must say that it’s pretty amazing that the film community at large really didn’t consider a series centered around Ed and Lorraine Warren years ago. I mean sure to be fair some of their most famous cases have been brought to the big screen in the past (Amityville Horror to name the most infamous). Yet the idea of following the husband and wife paranormal investigators, whilst being played by the same actors, from investigation to investigation like a horror-film X-Files series just writes itself. Of course since 2013 we now know that the idea has been picked up and is now the basis for The Conjuring movies with the most amazing aspect being that, aside from the spin-off Annabelle, this is one franchise that is truly red-hot at the moment as not only was the first one nothing short of amazing, but with The Conjuring 2, director James Wan has managed to give us a sequel that while flawed, as most horror sequels are, is nevertheless just as terrifying and engaging as the first, something most horror sequels aren’t.
The plot is as follows: Picking up the story of Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga) six years after the events of the first movie, The Conjuring 2 begins with the paranormal investigators having earned worldwide notability for their work on the infamous Amityville case. Yet Lorraine has found herself in a state of exhaustion as we soon see that personal and horrific visions involving a demon nun have begun to haunt her, and with critics and skeptics beginning to seriously try and disprove them and their work, Lorraine isn’t sure if she can continue consulting work and so she persuades Ed that they need to take a break. Shortly thereafter however what would become one of the Warren’s biggest cases begins to unfold in the London borough of Enfield in England as within this small British community, Peggy Hodgson (Frances O’Connor) struggles to maintain a home as a single mother of four children. Yet soon she finds things get exponentially harder when a demonic presence begins to terrorize her and her family with the presence specifically targeting Janet, the youngest daughter, who at night finds herself subject to a wide variety of terror be it waking up in the living room instead of her bed all the way to being actually physically attacked and bitten. Thus as the case begins to attract attention all over England, the Catholic Church finally calls Ed and Lorraine out of their self-imposed exile in order to investigate the happenings while hoping that they can either determine that it’s all a hoax or possibly rid the house of the evil that may in fact be there….
Now the absolute and number one worst thing a sequel in any genre of film can ever do is just be nothing more than a carbon copy of the original. So in all honesty had The Conjuring 2 fallen into that trap it would have been even more brutal than usual if for no other reason than the fact that we seemingly get so bloody many other paranormal haunting movies we every year. Yet while the movie does feature many of the staples of the sub-genre, a hand partially forced by the fact that the film has to possess some basic adherence to a “true” story, it still does manage to succeed by revealing some new and different tricks up its sleeve narratively that manage to both scare and surprise such as the fact that this movie actually gives us a chance to hear the voice of the many skeptics who Ed and Lorraine Warren combated over the course of their careers. Indeed while it should be pretty clear what team the film is playing for, it nevertheless does manage to add a level of depth to the story just by having the Warrens themselves actually express legitimate doubt about the validity of what’s going on in the Hodgson household.
Now while the script by Carey & Chad Hayes as well as James Wan and David Leslie Johnson does in fact deserve a lot of credit for how it advances the story of Ed and Lorraine Warren while also presenting them a new and different case to investigate there are some particular choices in the script that do sadly result in some issues in terms of pacing and structure. This includes the fact that while The Conjuring had the Warrens checking out the haunting within the first act of the movie, the duo and the events transpiring at the Hodgsons’ are actually kept apart for a surprising fraction of The Conjuring 2 thus providing time to catch up with the Warrens while also escalating the events in Enfield. Indeed while to be fair there is a consistent number of creeps and frights which prevent things from ever getting anywhere even near the dreaded “boring,” the fact still remains that Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga truly are best as the Warrens when they are in the heart of an investigation as this gives them their best chances to not only put their knowledge to the test, but also to provide the needed emotional support to each other that they require to see the job through and the sequel sadly just puts off that portion of the story for a bit too long.
In all honesty though what makes The Conjuring 2 definitely worth seeing is the work of James Wan, who returns to the horror genre after making the 7th Fast and Furious film with a real passion and in the process effectively reminds us why it’s been his home for so many years as we see that Wan’s work with cinematographer Don Burgess is striking and effective with a camera that’s rarely kept stagnant, and the movement just manages to insert an absolutely wonderful paranoia in the atmosphere that will make you and the audience constantly fear and wonder about what may be lurking just beyond the range of the lens. Most importantly, there is a really clear evidence of a really deep knowledge of when and when not to unleash a scare as Wan has managed to orchestrate it so that the “when nots” manage to drive you further to the edge of your seat in anticipation of all the “whens.” In addition James Wan also further establishes himself as one of modern horror’s most respectable filmmakers simply in the way he chooses to petrify his audience as while jump scares are peppered in to get the audience’s adrenaline flowing Wan’s true talent is in the more subtle, slow, and disturbing material and there truly are moments in The Conjuring 2 where you have to take an extra second to register exactly what your eyes are seeing, and upon doing so there is an absolutely enjoyable feeling that comes whenever the goosebumps start to form and your brain starts to curdle and this was a keystone of the first movie, and thankfully this makes a comeback and then some in the sequel.
All in all The Conjuring 2 showcases potential for this franchise to continue to succeed….a fact which becomes even more apparent upon finding out that the Warrens have claimed that their career together as investigators spanned nearly over 10,000 cases. Above all however, The Conjuring 2 truly is a tense and scary sequel that, despite its flaws, still manages to reward us in the audience with some utterly fantastic performances, a solid and terrific story, and absolutely great technique from now-legendary director James Wan. On a scale of 1-5 I give The Conjuring 2 a solid 4 out of 5.