8 out of 10
Patrick Wilson as Ed Warren
Directed by James Wan
The Conjuring 2 Review
Did the events in “The Conjuring” films really happen? That is a question audiences may be asking themselves as they sit down to The Conjuring 2, the sequel to 2013’s The Conjuring, directed again by James Wan. Are Ed and Lorraine Warren the genuine article, or hucksters trying to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes? The Warrens’ cases are certainly well-documented. The Amityville haunting has burned its way into our consciousness, with the many books and films that that famous case inspired. But there is also the Enfield haunting, as a single mother and her family are terrorized by supernatural forces, and examined in this film. American audiences may not be as familiar with that case, although in England it garnered at least as much attention as the Amityville case. In both instances, the Warrens were there, and while the veracity of what they experienced is certainly up for debate, it becomes irrelevant when sitting down to The Conjuring 2. Either you believe it or you don’t, but in the end, it’s all fiction in its way. It is very important, while we may have our own doubts and misgivings about the afterlife, religion, and the paranormal, that the film tells this story with real conviction and faith. The Conjuring 2 absolutely believes in what it is saying, and therefore, it makes it easy for the audience to do so as well.
James Wan is a very good horror director – a very good director, period, regardless of genre. Wan genuinely enjoys building tension, teasing it, orchestrating it like a master conductor, and no amount of special effects can equal the dread and the discordant unease that Wan seems to relish here. When the screams do come, they’re almost a relief, but they aren’t false “cat jumping on bed” moments either. Much of the fun of The Conjuring 2 is simply waiting for scenes to play out, and Wan has this wonderful ability to not only raise the levels of intensity from scene to scene, but he lets the audience play with these scene in their collective imaginations. It helps that the cinematography is so well done – Don Burgess keeps the camera flowing while not being showy about it.
The Conjuring 2 works so well because much of the scares are practically done. There is more effects work than in the first film, which relied more on tension and mood. But when it comes time for Wan to give the audience a jolt, he does it with panache and skill. This is naturally a bigger film than the first. While The Conjuring was fairly intimate, James Wan is painting on a bigger canvas this time, and a larger budget. But he also shows a terrific versatility in that regard. Considering that his last film was Furious 7, Wan’s ability to keep the proceedings restrained, and to slowly build his power and let scenes play out, showcases him as a very talented filmmaker.
But what’s best about the “Conjuring” films as a franchise (and I hope it becomes a very successful franchise) is that we come to like and even love these characters. Many horror films are about putting people through the grinder, or gratuitously taking pleasure in other’s suffering. But the best horror films have always given us characters to root for and to empathize with, and Wan, with screenwriters Carey Hayes, Chad Hayes, and David Johnson, gives us a smart, compassionate look at these people.
But the performances make it easier for the audiences to embrace The Conjuring 2’s story, and James Wan has an affinity for good actors, who have to navigate this supernatural world and make it believable. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga give honest, earnest performances, and bring the audience into these strange proceedings with real grace and empathy. They are our guides through the mystery and the terror, and both Wilson and Farmiga are strong, compassionate, and often very funny. This is a couple who we would follow into the darkness, and frankly, these movies wouldn’t work without them.
Steadfast in their faith but free of judgment, the Warrens are eager to help those in need, but as The Conjuring 2 begins, the Warrens have experienced their most terrifying case yet in a house on Long Island. The opening shot will be very familiar to horror fans, and I love how Wan tackles that particular iconic event – by giving us a look through Lorraine’s eyes. Lorraine is so disturbed by what she sees that she decides that she and Ed should probably stick close to home for a while. Ed isn’t as easily swayed – he wants to take the fight to the forces of darkness, but Lorraine’s premonitions suggest a very dark fate for her husband. But a single mother in Enfield, England, is dealing with a supernatural entity of her own, one that seems to be attacking her and her children. When the haunting unexpectedly makes national news, the Warrens are drawn in.
With the bigger scale, The Conjuring 2 loses a little of the intimacy of the first, but the scares stay constant and terrifying. In the context of the film, these terrors feel frighteningly real, and audiences shouldn’t get hung up on the accuracy and should just let the film work its magic. You’re sitting down at a campfire, listening to a story and hoping to be scared. That’s what we want from movies like this, and The Conjuring 2 delivers. The Conjuring 2 is a very satisfying and scary sequel, and this is a franchise that should continue to terrify us for a long time to come.