UK Release Date: 13th June 2016
Runtime: 134 minutes
Director: James Wan
Writer: Carey Hayes, Chad Hayes, James Wan, David Johnson
Starring: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Frances O’Connor, Madison Wolfe, Franka Potente, Simon McBurney
Synopsis: A British family terrorised by the malevolent spirit of a dead man in their London home call in a couple of investigators to get to the bottom of their paranormal predicament.
Pretty much everyone was surprised about how good The Conjuring was in 2013. It was a really successful showcase for James Wan, who knows the horror playbook better than just about everyone and knows exactly when to deploy his scares for maximum terror. Spin-off movie Annabelle was a lazy disappointment, but it’s great to see Wan back at the helm for sequel The Conjuring 2, which is a ghost train horror in the best possible sense of that phrase.
Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) travel to England to visit a house in Enfield, at which a spirit appears to have taken an interest in young girl Janet (Madison Wolfe). Janet’s mother Peggy (Frances O’Connor) has been experiencing a series of supernatural occurrences in the home and the local church requests that the Warrens come along. Lorraine has visions of harm coming to Ed and is plagued by the appearances of a ghostly nun.
James Wan is an excellent horror director and The Conjuring 2 makes that abundantly clear. Wan is intimately familiar with horror conventions and, though he doesn’t often make any attempt to subvert them, he does execute them with near flawless precision. He’s also a filmmaker who never chooses the obvious shot and puts his camera in inventive places to create maximum unease, turning the screw over and over until he sees fit to release the tension with a well-timed jump scare. And no one can time them like Wan.
Vera Farmiga does a tremendous job as the emotional anchor for the story. Her inner turmoil over the visions she experiences provides some context to the rollercoaster of jump scares that makes up much of The Conjuring 2. Farmiga’s eyes convey a deep dread, as if she is constantly troubled, even when we as an audience are not privy to the horrors bouncing around inside her head. Wilson is less compelling, but gets the chance to provide surprising emotional nuance with an impromptu rendition of Elvis Presley track ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love’. The British cast members are interesting and solidly played, but their “gor blimey, guvnor” accents are tough to get past.
The central cast is supported by a trio of phantoms and beasties. The Conjuring 2‘s central baddie is the ghostly nun, who is somewhat inevitably getting her own spin-off movie. She is far less compelling than Enfield poltergeist Bill Wilkins, who has a habit for appearing in increasingly terrifying places, with his growling voice and grizzled visage. The real star, though, is modern monster maestro Javier Botet, last seen in The Other Side of the Door, as The Crooked Man. Botet’s stop-motion style movement and otherworldly appearance make him a memorable and deeply creepy addition to the film, who would definitely have benefited from a little more screen time.
The Conjuring 2 is a shudder-inducing film with a surprising core of emotion. Wan marshalls the scares with real flair and manages to exploit the audience’s expectations to provide the most potent jolt at the most potent moment. He can flirt with big action franchises and superhero flicks, but his home will always be in the grubby cinematic underworld that is the horror genre. You can take the director out of the darkness, but you can’t take the darkness out of the director.
Pop or Poop?
Horror sequels don’t work; that’s an established fact. However, The Conjuring 2 does work and it’s every bit as terrifying as its predecessor. Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson are every bit as entertaining as they were before in their roles as the troubled investigators into the supernatural.
The beasties are better than before, the set pieces are executed with textbook horror precision and there’s a surprising glint of emotion in its eye. This is horror at its most controlled and chilling.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.