A successful spine chilling sequel to the first hit film, The Conjuring 2 continues with genuine scares, atmospheric events, inspired by the investigations of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. This time it’s the Enfield Haunting that is explored and it delivers on both the scare front and having a depth that can often be missing in horror movies.
It’s 1977 and in a council house in Enfield, London, the Hodgson family lives hand to mouth. There is harried single mother Peggy(Frances O’Connor) , who tries to do her best and her four children. When not contending with poverty or ridicule at the hands of either school kids or others, something strange begins for them. Following Janet( Madison Wolfe) playing with a makeshift ouija board, seemingly supernatural things begin to happen. She begins sleepwalking and communicating with something angry that claims to be a former occupant of the house. This is followed by objects being thrown about the house and terrorising the family in an abundance of ways. Terrified, the family flees to their neighbours and away from were the haunting originates. Meanwhile, paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren( Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) are taking a break from their jobs, following their encounters in The Amityville house a year before. Lorraine was put through the mill when conducting a seance and terrorised by a demonic nun figure who predicted the death of Ed. Still reeling, Lorraine has taken time away to spend it with her husband and young daughter. Yet it’s not long before news of unexplainable events in Enfield reach across the pond thanks to a media circus in England. The Warrens being experts in the field of the supernatural and haunting are asked to assist in investigating the unusual phenomena. After her experience a year prior, Lorraine is very reluctant to get involved in another case. Eventually, she and Ed travel to Enfield to act as observers and possibly help. Though they said they’d just observe, it becomes clear that Ed and Lorraine will have to really take on this force of evil as it gets more menacing. Upon entrance into the residence, Lorraine senses something deep and dark. The second oldest child Janet,seems to be the one most affected by the supernatural occurrences out of the family, leading to Ed and Lorraine investigating why the entity is using her as a conduit. The Warrens realise that they are up against an immensely evil being that seems to take pleasure in torment and may in fact be something relating directly to both of them. It’s up to Ed and Lorraine to fight this malevolent spirit that threatens to terrorise all in its path with no end.
Horror maestro James Wan is directing once more and his imaginative flourishes and ability to really generate fear in an audience is in huge supply once more. Wan is gifted in how he blends real feeling for characters and putting them through all manner of terror. An attention to characters and suspense building is what I really dig about this movie. Among all the scares, there is depth to be gleaned and relatable moments, especially pertaining to Ed and Lorraine. They are a fantastic couple whose open minds and devotion to each other is really amazing to watch as they compliment each other so well. The Conjuring 2 ups the stakes by making the main form of terror feel more personal towards the Warrens. There is the dual threat of a figure that takes the form of a nun that predicts bad things and the seemingly evil spirit of an old man who once lived in the Hodgson house. Both are the stuff of nightmares and really get under the skin whenever they appear. The nun especially has one very goosebump inducing scene in which she toys with Lorraine and it’s a doozy of a moment as it gradually begins to really unnerve the dedicated medium. Plus some sequences really stand out, in particular Janet sick at home and experiencing the full force of the ghost and Ed conferring with a possessed Janet in a one shot that obscures her. This visual trick is a nifty one as even though our view is blurred, you can see little differences as the demonic possession carries on and begins taunting Ed with inhuman glee. It doesn’t show us everything, but knows the trick of showing us enough to keep you on edge. It’s old school horror style at its finest. And speaking of style, the cinematography of moody blues and unusual camerawork really help us feel unsettled yet fascinated as we join this investigation. The colour scheme really highlights the period and setting, with the Warren’s providing the light that is unwavering through the darkness of their discoveries. And people may being skeptical about how true these events are, which is interestingly portrayed here as if it knows they’ll be naysayers. Amusingly, there are areas of the film that actually examine this in the form of investigator Maurice Grosse( Simon McBurney) and skeptic Anita Gregory( Franka Potente) but regardless of your belief or disbelief in the supernatural , you can’t deny that it isn’t one eerie and chilling film. The main flaw with The Conjuring 2 is that it does feel a bit overlong. Mind you, with that being the only real niggle with the film, I can’t find much fault with anything else on display. The score is appropriately nerve shredding in the best way there is, with low sounds and sudden jolts the order of the day. Plus, you get great periods of silence that truly maximise the tension and force you to keep your ears peeled for anything changing.
Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga head proceedings with commendable and believable performances. Wilson is dependable, amiable yet equally as adept in bringing home the serious nature of the job, while Farmiga is graceful, quietly forceful and tenderly beautiful as the gifted Lorraine. The chemistry is a big highlight and what makes us truly care for these people who are clearly devoted to each other and stalwart in their belief to do the right thing. Frances O’Connor is subtly devastating as the vulnerable single mother going through hell with her children; she truly comes alive with fear and terror as events spiral against her thanks to the great acting from O’Connor. Madison Wolfe really gives it her all as the besieged Janet and it’s amazing to watch such a young performer really hold the attention with a performance. She manages to be both very sympathetic and very alarming depending on whether she’s herself or possessed. Whichever side she’s portraying , Wolfe truly delivers fine work that is very memorable. Simon McBurney and Franka Potente, although assigned more supporting roles, at least get great moments as people on opposite ends of the believer spectrum.
Mixing creepy horror and human drama, The Conjuring 2 is an excellent sequel that features fine acting, eerie scares and a classy sense of horror that doesn’t go for hack and slash( instead opting for psychological terror). You won’t be having sweet dreams following this chiller.