Sunday, June 12, 2016

Review: The Conjuring 2

Image courtesy of New Line Cinema.
As far as horror movie sequels go, James Wan's "The Conjuring 2" belongs near the top of the heap. Not only is it just as good - and frightening - as the original, but its length and measured pace give the impression that the director - who has increasingly become one of the preeminent horror filmmakers - is going for a genre opus in the style of Stanley Kubrick. That he doesn't quite get there is no matter as this sequel to Wan's 2013 original is a fun summer movie that will likely jangle your nerves.

As the picture opens, real life paranormal investigators Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) are enmeshed in the horrific Amityville case that would end up being their most famous. Lorraine gets terrible premonitions - including a very spooky demon in the form of a nun that will haunt her throughout the entire picture - upon visiting the Long Island home at the center of that case and determines that she and her husband should take a break from their line of work.

But just a short while later, they are called upon to look into a ghastly situation in London's Enfield section where a family - especially one of its daughters - is being tormented by the ghost of a creepy old man who rattles their beds and sends toys flying out of a makeshift tent that one of the young boys has set up in the family's home. For those unfamiliar with the case, it is considered one of the most notorious of its kind in the UK.

With the exception of a sympathetic investigator (Simon McBurney), most of the people who have looked into the Enfield case are skeptical and believe that two of the family's girls are pulling a hoax for attention. Their mother (Frances O'Connor) doesn't even seem to believe them, that is, until she witnesses a dresser scoot across a room on its own.

The Warrens also have difficulty determining whether the Enfield home is actually haunted, despite Lorraine's apparent gift for detecting such things. Meanwhile, she's still being haunted in her visions by the demonic nun, who makes one particularly heart stopping visit during a scene in which Lorraine stares at what has to be the creepiest painting I've seen in a few moons.

Not surprisingly, the film's finale ends with a bang similar to the one set in the dark cellar - the house in this sequel also has a creepy basement - in the first "Conjuring" picture. But the dread inducing two-plus hours leading up to the finale, which features some special effects and furniture smashing into walls, is much more frightening. Wan, who is also responsible for the eerie "Insidious," is a master of the slow burn and making inanimate objects (a painting, a toy fire truck) unsettling.

Another element of this sequel that I appreciated is its propensity for outright weirdness. Right smack in the middle of all the sequences of hauntings, Ed attempts to cheer the tormented British family by strapping on a guitar and doing an Elvis impersonation. It's an odd moment, but one that momentarily breaks the tension. Some religious hard-selling toward the end of the movie is, perhaps, a little more awkwardly executed.

So, while Wan's sequel doesn't reach the heights of Kubrick's "The Shining," which appears to be the hallmark for which the director is reaching, it's an impressive piece of genre filmmaking. Wan nails the visual style of the era (1977 England) and, despite its atypically long running time for a horror film, holds our rapt attention for much of the proceedings. I rarely look forward to horror movie sequels as they are often just excuses for cashing in, but if Wan intends another go-round with the Warrens - and I'm sure they were involved in other cases than these - I'm all in.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, definitely a great horror sequel. I really hope James Wan is back again next time around.

    Nice review.

    - Zach (