Synopsis: Lorraine and Ed Warren travel to north London to help a single mother raising four children alone in a house plagued by malicious spirits.
Stars: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Frances O’Connor, Madison Wolfe, Lauren Esposito, Patrick McAuley, Benjamin Haigh, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Simon Delaney, Franka Potente, Simon McBurney
Director: James Wan
Running Length: 134 minutes
Trailer Review: Here
TMMM Score: (8/10)
Review: Is it as good as the first? That’s the question you really came here for, right? Any sequel to the 2013 fright delight The Conjuring had an uphill battle from the get go and everyone onboard The Conjuring 2 knows it. Instead of fast-tracking the sequel for the very next year, director James Wan (Insidious, Insidious: Chapter 2) and screenwriters Chad Hayes and Carey Hayes took their time in crafting their follow-up based again on the casefiles of paranormal pariahs The Warrens. While it doesn’t quite creep its way past the original it rests comfortably in the spooky shadow of its predecessor.
Like the original, the pre-credit sequence of The Conjuring 2 finds the audience in the middle of one of Ed and Lorraine Warren’s famous cases. This one is going to mighty familiar to fans of a certain series of films involving a haunted house in upstate New York…and it’s a clever way to sneak another franchise in without simply rehashing its oft-told tale. It’s during a séance that Lorriane sees a vision that will haunt her (and us) for the next 130 minutes as the Warrens travel to London where another family needs their help.
The structure of the film is entirely familiar as its nearly the same set-up as the first: Normal family experiences strange happenings that they ignore for a while until they need assistance from the Warren ghostbusting squad. Hey, if it ain’t broke or boring, why fix it.
The family in fear this time around is a working class single mother and her four children barely getting by. Their council house is spacious but grimy with water-stained walls, peeling paint, and crumbling plaster. Don’t forget the creepy basement half flooded with rainwater that of course is the setting for one of Wan’s deviously scary sequences. With the haunting mostly centered around a pre-teen girl (Madison Wolfe, Trumbo, displaying an iron-will resolve and ghostly eyes), the media soon seizes the sensational new story of the family, which catches the eye of the church who give their old pals the Warrens a call.
Even more than the first one, The Conjuring 2 stresses the religious angle of the Warrens assistance. Employed by the church to investigate/debunk possessions and hauntings, the Warrens are God-fearing people that believe their talents are meant to be in service to the church. They’re not Bible beating snake charmers but they do take their roles very seriously…and so do the actors portraying them.
I still find Patrick Wilson (Prometheus) a bit on the bland side but he’s fleshed out a bit more this time around, mostly because he’s part of a terrifying vision Lorraine is trying to decipher before it’s too late. Vera Farmiga (The Judge) is again the star of the show here, displaying the deepest of sincerity even when she’s speaking some of the hokier lines that populate the final third of the film.
Most horror films, especially sequels, don’t take much time in re-establishing returning characters, let alone any new ones but Wan and the Hayes brothers indulge a bit too much in the over-development of the people at play. How else to explain an extended sequence where Ed strums a guitar and has an Elvis sing-along with the family they’re helping while Lorraine looks on moon-faced and starry eyed? It’s a strange sequence that doesn’t add much to the thrust of the picture but gives Broadway-vet Wilson a chance to show off his singing skills. Still, I’ll always take fully realized characters fighting evil instead of fratboy airheads that get sliced and diced alongside their bimbo babe girlfriends.
What do a freaky as hell nun, a crusty old geezer, a storybook ghoul, and an overstuffed leather chair have in common? They’re all tools that Wan uses quite effectively to scare the ever lovin’ daylights out of audiences and for the most part he succeeds. Once again with interesting camera angles helping to keep viewers off balance, Wan brings on the gooseflesh early and keeps those bumps raised for much of the film. The big scares come during scenes that already have you on the edge of your seat and I saw quite a few heads bopping up over seats when Wan hit with the big whammy’s. The scares don’t come cheap, though, and it builds to an effective climax which manages to send you off into the night shuddering.
The Warrens have huge casefiles and I can see more films coming from Wan/Wilson/Farmiga. I’m for sure onboard for more if all involved stick with it and keep true to the root scares that feel so good. With a sequel to the spin-off Annabelle arriving next year, they have some time to think things through but on the next outing I hope things can be tightened up a bit.