Movie Review: The Conjuring 2

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After a traumatic experience, Lorraine and Ed Warren investigate the haunting of a family in Britain.

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James Wan, 2016

When a visit to Amityville leaves Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) with terrifying visions, she and her husband Ed (Patrick Wilson) decide to take a break from exorcising spirits, potentially for good. Their timing couldn’t be worse for the Hodgson family of Enfield in London. Mother Peggy (Frances O’Connor) is already struggling with the separation from her cheating husband, raising four children on her own, when her daughter Janet (Madison Wolfe) becomes possessed. Despite Lorraine’s reservations, she and Ed make the trip to London to check out the supernatural phenomena for themselves – but the spirit is tricky, and Lorraine is off her game. With visions of a demonic nun on her mind, she struggles to help the terrified, suffering Janet.

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Horror is one of the most revealing film genres in terms of a filmmaker’s talents. Love it or hate it, horror tends to be light on plot. It’s incumbent upon the filmmaker to create tension, to lure us into a false sense of security or keep us on edge, to use their skills and create an atmosphere that works for the film. James Wan is one of the best in the genre. The Conjuring 2 is one of the most intense horror films I’ve seen, despite a practically non-existent body count and no gore. Its opening scene is instantly scary, and the tension only ramps up from there, rarely letting up. When it does let up, it’s to enhance the film’s characterisation, to provide us with solid reasons to care about these characters. Unlike a lot of the horror offerings out there, the characters in Conjuring 2 are strongly defined. Most of the Hodgson kids only get a moment or two to establish themselves – a protective older sister, brave middle brother, and bullied youngest brother – but Janet and Peggy get some great scenes. Frances O’Connor’s Peggy is frazzled, but retains her humour and refuses to be scared off. Mostly, though, we’re encouraged to relate to Janet, played by young American actress Madison Wolfe. She throws everything she has into the harrowed teen girl, establishing her as an imperfect but resilient kid who cares deeply about her family.

This film belongs to Vera Farmiga’s Lorraine Warren, though. Farmiga nails the requisite fear and determination, bringing her version of Warren to life on the screen. Her fortitude and her affection for her cheesy, self-righteous husband are admirable, and she overcomes more than anyone in the film. Ultimately, this is what makes the film work; it’s frightening because the stakes really are high. Keeping the scares going keeps us in the mindset of the characters – Janet and Lorraine never get to escape the horrors they’re faced with, so neither do we. To be honest, the demon nun character loses its scare potency well before Wan stops focusing on it, but there are plenty of other scary forms to be seen. Janet’s possession scenes are incredibly effective and very creepy without effects, and there’s a “crooked man” that’s only seen twice that’s an incredibly visceral scare. The movie looks great, too – Vera Farmiga’s costumes are genuinely brilliant, as good as you’d find in any high-brow period drama (I frequently commented on how great she looks), and the use of light vs. darkness is so effective. This is old-school creepy horror filmmaking at its best, upping the ante from the clever, effective first film. My main problem with these films is that they tend to end with an over the top final “battle” scene that can be effective as catharsis, but often dilute the effectiveness of the film. The end of this film is particularly guilty here – it’s exciting, but it doesn’t contribute much to the story, and uses a trope I’ve seen too many times before. Still, Conjuring 2 is a fantastic horror film.

The Conjuring 2 on IMDb

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