Historically, making a satisfying sequel to a horror movie is a challenging affair. I truly enjoyed the first Conjuring movie. It caught me off guard and it was as unexpectedly great film, not just horror film, but film. However, we have seen other horror movie sequels fall flat (ex. Insidious 2, Sinister 2).
Fortunately, The Conjuring 2 does not fall into that trap. It is a tense and edge-of-your-seat film, controlling the tone with excellent direction by returning director James Wan and top notch performances from Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson.
This is another case from the files of Ed and Lorraine Warren, the real life “ghost busting” couple who were connected to the Amityville Horror situation in Long Island. The “true” story this time took Ed and Lorraine to England to try and help the Hodgson family with their own haunted house. Known as the Enfield Poltergeist, this case is one of the most documented cases of paranormal activity in history.
The film does start with Ed and Lorraine in the Amityville Horror house, dealing with the fallout of that situation. Lorraine was having psychic flashes of the demon that was in that house, who seemed to be following her.
Meanwhile, young Janet Hodgson (Madison Wolfe) was having to deal with more than bullies and troubled teen angst. She was being possessed by a spirit claiming that the house her family lived in was his house. Janet’s mother Peggy (Frances O’Conner) sees the furniture flying around the house and reaches out for help for her family of four.
The church, uncertain about the validity of the Hodgson’s claims, asked the Warrens to go and find out whether or not this case was a hoax. Lorraine, who was worried about her premonition, did not want to go, but Ed convinced her that they had never let a family suffer that needed their help.
One of the aspects of this story that I really liked was how there was question throughout the film whether or not this was actually happening. Questions arose making everyone believe that it could be a hoax, and the film played those doubts up very well. And even though, we as an audience were shown the ghost, I couldn’t help but wonder if this whole thing was an act.
What really makes The Conjuring work though is the outstanding relationship between Ed and Lorraine, portrayed perfectly by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga. This couple grounds the film, keeping its outrageous antics in balance with the love story between them. Without these characters, The Conjuring 2 would really devolve into just another horror movie with all of the basic cliched tropes. The Warrens make this something more. You care about these characters and, because of that, you care about the cases that they work.
And here I will mention a specific scene that some may felt was odd, but I absolutely loved it. Ed Warren, trying to bring some music into this haunted house, takes a guitar and sings Elvis Presley’s “ Can’t Help Falling In Love” for the kids. I thought this was just amazing. It was such a human moment that showed so much heart and love. This was a fantastic scene inside this horror movie. Some may claim that it did not fit, but it was a scene that developed characters, Ed Warren in particular.
James Wan also has to be mentioned as a reason this film works so well, because his shots are done specifically well, and he knows how to build the stress level of the audience without the typical jump scares. Sure there are some jump scares here as well, but they are woven beautifully into the story, and they wind up creating suspense. There is practically no let up in the suspense of this film from the beginning until the very end. He also has some of the greatest images you are going to find. The look of the evil nun, the Crooked Man, among other shots are really great.
Then, there needs to be a shout out to the young actress Madison Wolfe. If she does not have the chops to pull off this role, The Conjuring 2 would be stopped in its tracks. She does a remarkable job as this possessed little girl. She should have a great career ahead of her.
Now, The Conjuring 2 did feel a little long, and at 134 minutes, you aren’t going to find too many horror films that long. There are a few scenes that could have been trimmed down to make it a little more compact, but that is a minor nitpick.
I enjoyed this film a great deal. Yes, there are things that you have seen before, but, with the use of Ed and Lorraine, The Conjuring 2 creates a fearful story and a scary mood. It was as suspenseful of a time at the movies. This is the best horror film I have seen in a while.