The Conjuring 2
Director: James Wan.
Screenplay: Carey Hayes, Chad Hayes, James Wan, David Johnson.
Starring: Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Madison Wolfe, Frances O’Connor, Franke Potente, Simon McBurney, Lauren Esposito, Benjamin Haigh, Patrick McAuley, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Simon Delaney, Steve Coulter, Javier Botet, Bob Adrian, Bonnie Aarons.
“This is my house!”
Word on the Ouiji board had us believe that director James Wan was walking away from horror movies for good. He ventured into the Fast & Furious action franchise (with its 7th instalment) and stated his intention to leave the horror genre behind. However, his nostalgic frightener The Conjuring in 2013 was such a resounding success that Wan decided to return and take charge of its sequel. Often with sequels, they fail to deliver on the predecessor’s success but Wan still has a few tricks up his sleeve.
In the London borough of Enfield in 1977, single mother Peggy Hodgson (Frances O’Connor) believes that something evil and malevolent lurks in her house. When her young daughter Janet (Madison Wolfe) starts to display signs of demonic possession, Peggy reaches out to the church and the media to provide help. News soon travels to American paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) who find that the spirit that’s plaguing the family has also been plaguing them.
Opening on a seance that takes us back the mass murder of the Amityville story, James Wan employs some stylistic directorial flourishes that set this film on a strong footing. His feel and rhythm for the material is apparent from the offset and his use of camera angles lend an unnerving atmosphere to the proceedings. After such a striking opening, he slows events down and introduces new characters and a new location.
However, the haunted house routine is, once again, at the forefront and the usual horror tropes are on full view; creaking doors, knocks on the walls, vibrating beds and disembodied voices from the darkest corners of a room. It’s credit then to Wan that they don’t feel overused or even stale for that matter. The narrative is helped by relocating to England where, what is essentially a retread, feels like a new chapter in the paranormal dealings of the Warrens and Wan introduces a new demonic presence that looks like Marilyn Manson in a nuns habit. This may sound ridiculous but it’s a very unsettling entity and Wan also throws in creepy ghostly images of a 72 year old man that refuses to leave the house (or the family) alone.
What doesn’t work so well is a subplot involving zoetrope character The Crooked Man. It’s shoehorned in to give a young side character something to do and feels almost like an attempt to provide another future tie-in horror film (much like the doll Annabelle that originated from the first instalment). It just doesn’t work and provides absolutely nothing to the story at hand and its omission could have saved 20mins from Wan’s slightly overlong running time.
For the most part, though, Wan wrings out the terror with a very assured hand. He builds steadily and allows the horror to creep in with the occasional image or revelation hidden in a corner of the frame. In doing so, there are several efficient jump-scares and hairs on neck moments and that’s ultimately how I judge a horror. Admittedly, there are issues and contrivances in the story and the “based on a true events” angle has caused controversy but Wan’s ability to stage a creepy scene is hugely effective and he delivers a package that does exactly what it sets out to do.
Horror films of late seem to have taken a much needed look at themselves and there have actually been some notable inclusions in recent years. If James Wan decides to remian on this platform, it will do the genre no harm whatsoever.
Trivia: According to Vera Farmiga, the real-life events in Enfield became the longest recorded paranormal case of poltergeist activity in history.