Directed by James Wan. Produced by Peter Safran, Rob Cowan, and James Wan. Written by James Wan, Chad Hayes, Carey Hayes, and David Leslie Johnson. Release date: June 10, 2016.
When it was released in 2013, The Conjuring was a surprise hit, both with critics and audiences. It made more money than anyone could have expected and was met with a lot of critical praise. It's a paranormal horror movie, which means things go bump in the night, as ghosts and demons love nothing more than scaring people. The events were investigated by Ed and Lorraine Warren, two real-life individuals played earnestly by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga. In our world, they have been proven to be full of it, largely fabricating any paranormal events they claimed to have witnessed. In the movie, they're the real deal.
So, then, it comes as a bit of a surprise that their second cinematic adventure - in this franchise, at least - revolves around a potential hoax. The Conjuring 2 is about the "Enfield Poltergeist," which almost nobody believes really happened. In the film, there's an entire character (Franka Potente) dedicated to trying to find flaws in the victims' stories, and the Warrens themselves only show up to try to see whether there's any validity to the claims - not to immediately intervene. That's a pretty big risk for a film like this one to take.
The plot is your basic ghost story. Set in 1977, a family in London is haunted by a poltergeist that appears to be an elderly man who died in the house. His prime target? The family's youngest daughter, Janet (Madison Wolfe), who gets to go into full-out Linda Blair mode throughout The Conjuring 2. So, people start hearing voices and seeing things, objects get moved around - typical haunted house stuff. This goes on for about an hour before the Warrens are called in, tasked by the church to see if the case is worth taking, or if the family is just looking for publicity.
Of course, this is now a multi-movie franchise, so it shouldn't be too much of a surprise what conclusion is drawn by the film, but even addressing the possibility of a hoax - and often providing strong evidence - is a gutsy decision. It adds another layer onto what's become a pretty tired genre. We know what these types of ghosts/demons do, and there isn't much from that respect that we haven't seen before. Filmmakers need to innovate in order to keep our attention.
Good horror movies are rare and good horror movies sequels are rarer. The Conjuring 2 happens to be both of these things, which statistically speaking should be considered downright miraculous.
Luckily for us, The Conjuring 2 - like its predecessor - has been directed by James Wan. Wan might be best known for the Saw franchise, but take a look at his resume and you'll see a lot of good stuff. The Conjuring was as haunted house movie as a haunted house movie can be, but it generated such a good atmosphere and was so well-made that it worked anyway. The Conjuring 2 suffers a bit from being pretty much the same film as the first, but the hoax element, some new camera techniques, and more strong filmmaking keep it well worth watching if you're looking for a good horror movie. All of the staples are here - moving furniture, crash-bang sound effects, eerie music, slow builds, dark corners that may or may not contain the very thing you hope they don't - and they're used to great effect.
It's really easy to hype a good wide-release horror movie, since almost all of them turn out to be garbage. The Conjuring 2 is good, don't get me wrong, but it looks even better by comparison. There only wind up being a handful of good horror movies at most in a calendar year, and this is one of them. It knows how to build atmosphere, it uses its jump startles well, it's creepy, it has strong cinematography, the performances are good, and it blends elements of real-life hoaxes into its paranormal plotting, which isn't something I can recall ever seeing.
That's not to say The Conjuring 2 is perfect. The Warrens are still woefully underdeveloped protagonists - as are the rest of the characters. At two hours and 14 minutes long, it plays for way too long and can't quite justify the running time (The Conjuring was also too long, although it wasn't even two hours in length). And while there are lots of good scenes - some of which subvert expectations, while some play right into them and work anyway - the sequel fails to have any of its highlights top the clapping scene from its predecessor.
Good horror movies are rare and good horror movie sequels are rarer. The Conjuring 2 happens to be both of these things, which statistically speaking should be considered downright miraculous. Thanks to director James Wan, who knows how to do this better than almost anyone currently working, we've got an atmospheric and chilling horror movie with just enough of a twist to differentiate it from its predecessor. These things almost never work twice, but The Conjuring 2 works pretty much just as well as the first one.
Bottom Line: More of the same, but the same is still good, The Conjuring 2 is a very solid horror movie.
Recommendation: You like the first one? You'll like the sequel. Not a fan of the original? You probably won't like the second.
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