Review: The Conjuring 2 (2016)


The Conjuring 2


Director: James Wan

Since the release of “The Conjuring” just three short years ago, this sleeper hit has become a booming franchise with a spin off, a sequel and with more than a half billion dollars from the original and “Annabelle” alone (especially impressive being that both were made for under 30 million combined and actually garnered largely favorable reviews from critics & audiences alike.) With such heavy expectations and estimates, it is not surprising that “The Conjuring 2” has some serious competition with both its brethren and a quality crop of horror in 2016 and by God, it delivers.

While not perfect in any way, shape or form, “The Conjuring 2” keeps its jolting jambalaya of jump scares, humorous pauses and heartfelt moments mixed well, if a bit more imbalanced than its predecessor. In the continuing cinematic adventures of world renowned paranormal investigators in employ of the Catholic Church, Ed and Lorraine Warren begin this endeavor with a truly killer opening that recounts the case that garnered them fame and doubt in equal parts: The Amityville Horror.” As Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) sinks into a séance in the haunted house itself, she participates in the heinous and very real actions of Ronald DeFeo that terrible night, and as Warren finds, the reason behind it. This opening segment (and the final showdown at the films climax) showcase some marvelous cinematography that truly does warrant praise and will likely invite closer attention on further viewings.


We are then hurled across the pond into late 70s North London, into the suburb of Einfield for one of the UK’s most renowned paranormal events, “The Einfield Haunting” that affected Peggy Hodgson and her family of four, including her youngest daughter Janet who slowly becomes overtaken a spirit who wants possession of the house…and her. As the case spreads like wildfire in the British tabloids, the attention of the Catholic Church who dispatch the Warrens to investigate after evidence surfaces from both true believers and stern skeptics. While the primary plot is sure to sound as paint by numbers as expected, “The Conjuring 2” keeps two tracks of activity going with unfolding events in the Warren homestead as Lorraine is stalked by the spirit of a twisted nun and unshakeable visions of a tragedy she perceives will occur if she and Ed do not cease their paranormal pursuits. This of course, comes full circle and is predictable in many spots but does maintain the energy of the first film ensuring that the essence of evil knows no confines or boundaries.


Though “The Conjuring 2” is not a complete rehash of the original with a foreign locale and a new family living in fear, it does maintain many of that features strong suits while providing some necessary updates that might not make 100% certified fresh but certainly stave off much of the staleness that could have occurred (thankfully, this is no “The Grudge 2” or “The Ring 2.”) A large part of the success is due to likeability, whether it’s the real chemistry between Lorraine and Ed (Patrick Wilson,) the inter-workings of the Hodgson family (who are suffering in more ways than one but band together in the face of corporeal and ethereal enemies) and the standout performance of young Madison Wolfe who portrays the afflicted Janet. Like the Perron clan in the first film, you sympathize with these characters; you care. Ed and Lorraine fight the good fight; you want to take up arms with them. And when the skeptics stand united in doubt, you understand why and cannot help but agree at the onset. That final element is driven home here more than ever because if you know anything about the Enfield Haunting, there is reason to be suspicious and while “The Conjuring 2” embellishes more than just a wee bit, the core questions remain and are raised to the forefront several times, asking even the diehards to rethink their unwavering faith in what lies beyond.


Another approach that I found intriguing is the amount of old school mystery mainstays that appear, especially in the numerous clues scattered through the celluloid. If you pay close attention there are not only obvious examples but a plethora of cleverly placed cues to help you unravel the secrets of the dead before all is done. Amplified with Joseph Bishara’s soul searing score (including that beautiful end theme, that while overdone never ceases to cause my heart to swell) and some screen trickery by the DP and you’re in for system shock overload.


Director James Wan has a ton of talent and while I am reticent to say it as I normally despise them, he is the master of the jump care. Usually these are such a predictable component of modern horror that they have become more yawn than yelp inducing, there were two points in this film where I sat straight up like I had been electrocuted; he’s that good.

A horror trope that many have disdain for that I actually defend is similar fare’s penchant for going back to basics. While there is CGI and the new wave of SFX, I’ve always been a fan of a return to classic costumes, minimal make up and letting the score do the work. There are few elaborate pieces and presentations (at least by budgetary standards) and a lot of the fear is drawn from domestic situations, places where we feel safe and that security is stolen by solitary figures, unstoppable forces – where you feel the very environment and everything in it is being manipulated to maim & murder you, slowly but surely. It’s a simpler approach from increasingly complex and unnecessary overindulgences in the glut of the less than impressive 1990s and 2000s genre output.

“The Conjuring 2” can be a mixed bag but because of substantial development in its two hour plus running time and stellar cast, it becomes a potent powder keg. There’s an investment here in both the atmosphere and attitude of the afflicted and while I will not give away the ending, I actually walked away grateful they went with something so primal and real…and that’s the success of this film and its relatives – that you went to edge of sanity & back with them and no matter what, you never let go of hope – ready for the ride?