THE CONJURING 2
Director: James Wan
Starring: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Frances O’Connor, Madison Wolfe, Franka Potente, Lauren Esposito
I love a good scary movie and director James Wan is no stranger at delivering a thrilling scare to his audiences. He directed the first film as well as Saw and Insidious to name a few. He is back along with stars Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga for another look into the case files of Ed and Lorraine Warren. After the Warrens’ work on the Amityville horror house, they had vowed to take a break. Lorraine is a clairvoyant and their work was thrust into the spotlight with that case. It eventually took a toll on them as a couple and family. While this is happening, the Hodgson family who live in the London borough of Enfield is experiencing a nightmare of their own that would rival the Amityville story. Peggy Hodgson (O’Connor) is a single mom raising four children and barely able to make ends meet. Spooky things start to go bump in the night. Toys start to light up and activate, furniture starts to go flying across the room, and youngest daughter Janet (Wolfe) starts speaking in a deep voice taking on an alternate personality. The spirit of an older man who once died in the house starts stalking every member of the family claiming that it’s “MY HO– USE!” Despite their “celeb status”, the Warrens are hesitant about taking on new cases, but feel the need to help the Hodgsons. They join an investigative team on the Hodgson property including a woman (Potente) who is out to prove this is all a hoax.
The case of the Enfield poltergeist is one of the most documented and researched occurrences of paranormal activity. As you can expect, it brings out the fanatics looking to believe every word of the Hodgson family as they recount their story. For as many true believers there are out there, there are as many skeptics hoping and trying to prove it was all a hoax. The film suggests that there is the constant underlying attention to the idea of, not only the Hodgson family lying, but the Warrens being frauds for embellishing their findings. I do believe that Wan and the actors believe in the Warrens and their work, but I appreciate the counterpoint given thanks to Franka Potente’s character.
Whether or not the audience believes, there’s no denying the chemistry between Wilson and Farmiga which keeps you invested in these movies. Original screenwriters Carey Hayes and Chad Hayes are back with help from James Wan and David Leslie Johnson. They’ve written two characters you actually care about which can be hard to find in the horror genre. Wan knows that you need to sympathize with the characters if you want the scares and shocking moments to have a lasting impact. What makes The Conjuring films unique and special is that attention to the family dynamics for the Warrens and the Hodgsons as well as the Perrons in the first film. Lorraine is worn down and receiving visions of a Ed’s looming death and a ghostly nun who keeps terrorizing her. What makes matters worse is that Ed also has visions of said nun.
The first thirty minutes of The Conjuring 2 are relentless as it sets up the suspense at hand. Wan gives us some closure on the Amityville case, which helps center in on the timeline at hand in conjunction to the first film. It also reminds us that the Warrens are real people who are also connected to that classic movie starring James Brolin and Margot Kidder. The 1977 timeline helps give the film that vintage feel, and Wan has definitely learned from the scary movies of that period. The film’s take on Janet Hodgson is very reminiscent of The Exorcist but less vulgar. More importantly, it still feels within the world of the first film. The difference in location and family helps differentiate it enough so it doesn’t solely feel like a copycat that the studio cranked out for easy cash. It is still a sequel, which typically means it’s a bigger, flashier film due to a larger budget. I had begun to worry that this movie was going to peak too soon, but Wan wisely shifts from wanting to scare the audience into focusing on the families. There are enough little frights along the way to keep you awake and then it rattles you with a big climatic ending. Wan has a way of making you squirm in your seat even when you know something is going to happen. I’ve seen enough scary movies to predict when the jumps will happen. I was clenching up waiting for it, and Wan still got me to jump and have some audible reactions at times.
Sequels in the horror genre are never as good as the first by design alone. Can you truly be as consistently scared the second time when you already know the characters and what to expect? The Conjuring 2 is still a worthy follow-up thanks to its character development and performances by Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson. It could also use a little bit of trimming as it runs over two hours and is twenty minutes longer than the first one. I’m now dying to know more about the original case as the film clearly takes some liberties to dramatize it for scare tactics. The visualizations of the nun and the old man are probably more elaborate than how they appeared in real life. I get it; it comes with the territory. So would I want to see a third Conjuring film? Oddly yes. I think it works with these characters, as there are more files and more stories to be told of what Ed and Lorraine Warren went through. Wilson and Farmiga are dynamic in these roles, and they’ve mentioned in interviews that they are open to do a third.
Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? Sure it’s not as good as the first, but there are just enough frights guaranteed to make you jump and scream throughout.
RATING: 3.5 out of 5 TICKET STUBS