Verdict: 4 / 5
Horror-meister James Wan works extremely hard to avoid the usual sequel pitfalls in the follow-up to his well-received intimate paranormal investigation horror, The Conjuring. If the original was a quiet, cold and eerie whisper, The Conjuring 2 is a louder, furniture-tossing, and hair-raising Munch scream.
Reprising their roles as Lorraine and Ed Warren, Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson return as the rosary-wielding paranormal investigators in what has been described as the Warren’s most terrifying case. The story deals with England’s Enfield Haunting — a highly documented 1977 case involving a single mother, Penny Hodgson (Frances O’Connor), her four children and a terrifying entity that targets her 11-year-old daughter, Janet (Madison Wolfe). Their home is haunted by the former homeowner, 72-year-old Bill Wilkins (Bob Adrian), who tells the family over and over, “This is my home!” Meanwhile, Lorraine has visions of a spectral nun and her husband’s death. Are the supernatural claims real? Will the couple be able to save the family and themselves from the nightmare set before them? Is this all the work of the devil or is just a very bad case of puberty?
Wan pulls out all the stops – raucous demons, creaking floors, mysterious slamming doors, haunting sounds, a spine-chilling soundtrack, frightening ouija boards, misbehaving TV sets, terrifying ghouls, noisy walls, creepy voices, spooky antique toys, emotive characters and effortless camera work. However, he doesn’t just tick the boxes, he offers a few new tricks/misdirections to the usual dusty genre cliches. They wouldn’t be true horror films without the gimmicks, but thankfully Wan handles it all with flair. Suspense is his strongest weapon, and The Conjuring 2 lends a lot from it’s older scarier brother The Exorcist.
Gleeful couple Farmiga and Wilson remain the biggest attraction of the franchise. There is something believable and remarkably interesting about the portrayal that captivates audiences. They sell every gasp and emotional pull. For example, Wilson’s Ed serenading the Hodgson family with “Can’t Help Falling in Love” on guitar and vocals in the midst of the horror, is a great way to slow down the pace of the film, make us feel safe and remind audiences that everything is going to be okay. Of course, this all happens just before the horror starts up again.
At more than two hours long, The Conjuring 2 is a step below its predecessor, but it’s still scary. And that’s what counts. You’ll be looking around every dark corner for the rest of your evening. As a horror, it succeeds.