THE CONJURING 2 Review
Director: James Wan
Oh, the dreaded horror sequel. Even with the dozens of examples of great horror follow-ups (I will defend TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 until the day I die), filmmakers always fight an uphill battle with them. They’re difficult to make well, and critics and audiences alike invariably accuse them of being cheap cash grabs.
THE CONJURING 2 is, in all likelihood, a cash grab for Warner Bros. Can you really blame them? The first one made $318 million worldwide. One thing you can not accuse the movie of being, though, is cheap. No, folks — this is quality filmmaking right here.
“I see dead people… wait, wrong movie”
Paranormal investigators Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) Warren are back. Straight off their famous Amityville Horror case, the two are sent to London, at the behest of the Catholic Church, to investigate “England’s Amityville.” In the London Borough of Enfield, the Hodgson family struggles with a spirit named Bill Wilkins, who loves to shove dressers around, steal the TV remote, and possess 11-year-old Janet (Madison Wolfe). Using the power of faith, the Warrens must defeat the evil.
Much like the original, THE CONJURING 2 does not stand out because of the originality of its plot. It’s a story we’ve seen time and again. What makes the film unique and worthy of acknowledgement is the flawless execution.
“Get me the hell out of here!”
THE CONJURING 2 is one of director James Wan’s most confident efforts to date. Utilizing long takes and elaborate camera movements, Wan ramps the tension to unsettlingly high levels. When the camera creeps around a corner, it’s almost as if the audience is a character in the scene. At other times, the camera places the audience in the POV of a demonic presence that menaces the young girls.
A master of his craft, Wan even knows when to just let the camera sit. One especially effective scene has Ed on screen conversing with an out of focus spirit possessing Janet. Done in one still shot, I about peed my pants by the end of it.
“Come on, turn around already”
In fact, I should probably apologize to the theater staff who had to wring out my urine-soaked seat, because THE CONJURING 2 is truly terrifying. Being a $40 million movie, Wan was able to create some pretty flashy scares involving a “Crooked Man” and nun-demon. More simple scares involving a miniature firetruck and menacing voices are just as effective, if not more effective. Wan plays the audience like a violin, knowing just the right speed to turn the screw, before shoving the screwdriver in your face.
Of course, the effectiveness of these scares relies on the ability to connect with the peril of the characters. Wilson and Farmiga steal the show again, returning to their roles as the Warrens. It’s impossible to not fall in love with them because their chemistry is so compelling. A subplot involving Ed’s possible demise is surprisingly heart-wrenching at times. It’s hard to imagine these characters no longer together.
While not as engrossing as the Warrens, the Hodgson family members are commendable. Wolfe delivers a strong possessed child performance. At one point, the family rushes out of its house and calls the police after spooky stuff happens, eliciting the theater to burst into applause. Smart, well-written characters in horror films seem to be so few and far between that audiences will literally break out into cheer when they do something logical. I want to praise THE CONJURING 2 for this achievement, but it instead makes me question the state of horror. Jesus.
THE CONJURING 2 is a nice change of pace for the big budget, studio horror scene, as independent films have largely stolen the spotlight in recent years. As cool as it is to see slick one million dollar features kill it, every once in a while, I want someone like Wan to come along with all the expensive filmmaking toys and create a balls-to-the-wall shriekfest.
Is THE CONJURING 2 as good as the first? Yes. Yes it is.