In 2013, director James Wan scored a hit with audiences with The Conjuring, a ghost story based on reportedly true events following real life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga). Now in 2016, Wan explores another tale from the Warrens’ book of creepy goings on with The Conjuring 2: The Endfield Experiment. The incident in Endfield was documented by several investigators, along with the Warrens, with mixed findings. The haunting of a single mother and her four children was believed by some to be genuine, while others disputed the claim, saying it was a hoax perpetrated by the two daughters. However you wish to believe, the story makes for some decent horror movie making, and this sequel succeeds more often than not in delivering the goosebumps.
Taking place six years after the first movie, The Conjuring 2 opens with the Warrens conducting a seance at the house in Amityville, New York in 1976. A vision there unsettles Lorraine, who pleads with Ed that they need to stop with the investigations. Ed agrees, but their retirement is short lived. A single mother, Peggy Hodgson (Frances O’Connor) and her four children- Janet (Madison Wolfe), Margaret (Lauren Esposito), Billy (Benjamin Haigh), and Johnny (Patrick McAuley)- are being menaced by a supernatural entity in Endfield, Great Britain. With the Warrens gaining notoriety following the Amityville incident, they are approached by the Catholic Church to investigate the purported hauntings of the Hodgons in Endfield. So off across the pond they go, despite Lorraine having visions that doing so could led to Ed’s death.
Once there, they meet with the family and other investigators, including Maurice Grosse (Simon McBurney) and skeptic Anita Gregory (Franka Potente). Spooky happenings and a possession are witnessed, but something feels off, and the pair try to figure things out before it’s too late for the family, especially the one daughter Janet, whom the entity seems fixated on.
The Conjuring 2 succeeds where its predecessor fell flat. While the performances were good in the first film (as they are here in the sequel), too often the scares felt cheap and even fell flat as they were wholly predictable. That predictability robbed the first movie of its suspense, rendering it even a bit boring. This time, even though for those well steeped in haunting and possession movies there will be few surprises, director James Wan seems to have made things work far better, nicely building suspense with more things we didn’t see as opposed to having spooks pop up in our face (though there are a couple of these jump scares present). In the first film the Warrens felt a bit too fanatical in their beliefs that every haunting was the work of a demon, but in this one that seems to have been dialed back a bit. The pair are far more likeable this time around, a testament to the chemistry shared between Wilson and Farmiga. The family also feels a bit more genuine, and Madison Wolfe does a particularly superb job at portraying the haunted Janet.
The effects of furniture flying and sliding across the room were handled well, coming across as more believable rather than hokey. The make-up on the ghosts was suitably creepy, especially a sinister nun, played by Bonnie Aarons. The use of nursery rhymes added to the creepy atmosphere, and scenes of the family interacting both among themselves and with the Warrens made us fear for them all the more. It all worked to make these characters seem more relatable, and increased our desire to see them saved from their supernatural plight. While there was use of religious imagery (one room is covered in crosses which malevolently turn upside down) and a demon present, that aspect didn’t feel as forced as it was in the first movie, and it came across as more genuine this time around.
In all, The Conjuring 2 is a much better film than its predecessor, doing a better job with keeping viewers both engaged and feeling uneasy. Scares feel more earned rather than cheap or rendered moot by their predictability. The family in jeopardy feels a bit more relatable this time around, and the Warrens themselves are portrayed as more likeable. Decent special effects and make-up are kept simple and effective rather than resort to overblown CGI that affects other films of the genre. Despite the R rating, this is not a terribly gory movie, and that works well in its favor. Whether you believe that the events that the film is based on are true or a hoax, it still translates to a good, spooky story and makes for one of the better horror movies in recent years. Fans of the first should love this one as well, and those not impressed with the first movie may go away pleasantly surprised. Wan seems to have the genre down pat, and this sequel delivers a few good chills in this summer movie season.
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