The Conjuring 2 (2016)

Directed by James Wan
Written by Carey & Chad Hayes & James Wan and David Leslie Johnson

To be upfront and as honest as I possibly can be, I never saw The Conjuring. However, prior to seeing this film, I did take the time to research Ed and Lorraine Warren, the film series’ main characters, just enough to get a sense of who they are, where they come from, and what makes them notable. That is to say, I cannot comment on this film’s comparison with its predecessor, having never seen it, but perhaps fresh eyes on the new installment is just what it needs (I can hope). I am also not extremely well versed in the ways of horror movies, especially recently. In researching in the history of horror movies, I was surprised to see how many of the “classics” I had actually seen, but also how many more I have not. After going into this film expecting to leave the theater crying and curled up into a ball of terror, I think I did better than I expected, and would be ready to explore the genre further, which isn’t to say that this film is not scary at all. It is.

The film begins with perhaps Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren’s (Vera Farmiga) most famous case, The Amityville Horror. After this chilling encounter, Lorraine begins to be apprehensive about the couples supernatural caseload, wishing to take a little break from all the investigating. No sooner do they return home than does a mysterious demon begin to terrorize the Hodgson home in Enfield, England across the Atlantic. Janet (Madison Wolfe) begins to see and hear odd things, causing her three siblings and single mother (Frances O’Connor) to worry. The Catholic Church, careful that the Enfield case is a hoax, employs the Warren’s to travel to England and investigate, and investigate only. But once the Warren’s arrive, things become more involved than expected.

Horror often gets a bad rap by critics, myself mostly included, and I wonder why that it. Perhaps its low brow, shock treatment style is seen as beneath the greater achievements and potential of cinema, but horror is also one of the most popular genres among fans, and for good reason. It is highly entertaining and a more immersive movie experience than almost any other genre out there. When done well, the genre can chill and provide nightmares long past the time spent in a theater seat. Horror filmmaking is like magic. We often know what we’re seeing is not real (or at least probably not real) and the trick of the thing is figuring out how they’re doing it. With his latest horror film, director James Wan takes that exercise and places the audience right in the middle of deciphering what is real and what is not.

By making the film a case where the Warren’s, played wonderfully by Wilson and Farmiga (they have a certain chemistry like they’ve been making movies together as a couple for ever, not dissimilar to their characters solving cases), are tasked with figuring out if the Enfield case is a hoax, or the real deal, the film manages to make the set pieces (which are effectively constructed exercises in use of negative space, allowing the audience to anticipate the horror before also being enveloped by it) evidence for the audience to consider. This makes the film more interactive than most horror films. Not only are we being shocked and scared by these supernatural occurrences, but we’re meant to question not just whether it is real or not, but if it is a hoax, then how or why?

I can’t help but feel like there are still some corny horror movies conventions here, including cheap jump scares, but overall the film does a wonderful job of building behind its characters and developing effective ways to scare its audience, even if some of these ways have been seen before. The film looks and feels like a good horror film, and despite its two hour plus run time, feels paced quite well too, even if there is space to remove some of the more ancillary scenes, which better serve the Ed/Lorraine story than the Hodgson/Enfield story. Once again, I cannot comment on how this compares with the first, which was received extremely well by fans and critics alike. I can however say that I enjoyed this film for what it was, and that despite not breaking new ground or doing anything above and beyond, The Conjuring 2 is a solid horror film worth checking out for fans.

*** – Good

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