James Wan is the ultra talented director of The Conjuring 2, but has also shown he can direct solid action films as well, having directed Fast and Furious 7 and the much under appreciated Death Sentence with Kevin Bacon. I say the under appreciated Death Sentence because it was a film that featured a terrific performance by Kevin Bacon as a father whose son is murdered and exacts his revenge on the people responsible with devastating and unintended consequences. Not many others saw it or appreciated it. Wan is able to draw out the human element in both genres so the action means something to the story.
Now he has done some films that I have not particularly cared for most notably the truly wretched Dead Silence (about a talking demonic dummy and yea it is as bad as it sounds) and the overrated first film from the Saw franchise, which is still going with other directors but Wan has produced virtually all of them. But, his films Insidious, The Conjuring, Insidious 2 and now The Conjuring 2 are solidly made, well executed horror films, in a field that has seen its ups and downs. There are not many horror directors out there, but James Wan has shown a knack for it. He reminds me of a younger John Carpenter.
The Conjuring 2 tells the story of Ed and Lorraine Warren, real life paranormal experts who have since retired to Florida. In their day, they were some of the leaders in paranormal investigations and as The Conjuring 2 opens they are in Amityville, New York. It so shook Lorraine to her core, that she and her husband, Ed (Patrick Wilson) decided to take a break. That is until they get a call from the local Catholic church about a family in England being plagued by ghosts and demons. It would later be named The Enfield Haunting and according to the film, is one of the most well documented paranormal investigations, ever.
Now, obviously, some of the scenes of terror in Conjuring 2 are for theatrical purposes and you will be able to decipher which ones I am talking about. I will leave that to the viewer. However, at the heart of this film is three families who are affected by this haunting most notably, the Hodgson’s. Peggy (Frances O’Connor) is a single mother of four; two boys, Billy (Benjamin Haigh) and Johnnie (Patrick McAuley) and two girls, Margaret (Lauren Esposito) and Janet (Madison Wolfe). Janet is the one affected most by these malicious spirits and is even demon possessed. This is a sweet and innocent family that has fallen on hard times. I have not done mush research into the entire haunting of Enfield, but there is more than enough information out there, if anyone is so inclined. I went in unaware and it is better that way. This film is not for younger children but the older teenagers could probably handle the material. Nobody knows their children better than their parents so use common sense if you decide to research and watch this film.
Skeptic Anita Gregory (Franke Potente) is brought in to decide if this is actually a hoax, in order to get improved housing, but with the exception of one event, everything else that has happened has been seen by others as it happens, from the Hodgon’s neighbors to the police and now the Warrens. What follows is a film with convincing acting most notably by newcomer, Madison Wolfe who is phenomenal as Janet. But the characters in Conjuring 2 are well written so there is emotional connection that we feel towards them so we care what happens to them and are emotionally invested in them.
The Conjuring 2 is nothing original but it is the characters that propel this story and make it work. James Wan is able to set a very ominous tone early in the film and it never lets up, but it is not overbearing, either. He seems to know just how far to push the envelope without turning the film into gimmick. Sure it’s gimmicky but there is genuine fear, here and that is what helps to make The Conjuring 2 work. It takes a bit to get going and some things happen in the first thirty minutes that were effective enough but routine for this genre. I don’t think The Conjuring 2 is as good as the original Conjuring and I know it is not as good as one of the best horror films in recent years, Insidious. Insidious is one to check out on a dark night. It is truly terrifying and original. But as a sequel and on its own The Conjuring 2 is a good little creep-fest. Well acted, paced well and an intelligent script penned by Wan, himself along with scribes Chad Hayes, Carey Hays and David Johnson, that respects the audience and treats us to a good old fashion horror film.
The Conjuring 2 – ***1/2 out of 5
The Conjuring 2 – Rated R for scenes of terror, horror, a couple of brief shots of gore and a few instances of bad language.
The Conjuring 2 – Run Time is 134 minutes
The Conjuring 2 is now playing in theaters. Check your local listings for times and locations.