Review: The Conjuring 2

Director(s)James Wan
Principal CastVera Farmiga as Lorraine Warren
Patrick Wilson as Ed Warren
Madison Wolfe as Janet Hodgson
Frances O’Connor as Peggy Hodgson
Release Date2016
Running Time 134 minutes

Wow. When I first saw this movie, I couldn’t believe it. The Conjuring is one of the best mainstream horror movies of the past decade. As someone who’s tried desperately to get friends into stuff like Midsommar or Tag and failed, I have a special place in my heart for The Conjuring being one of the few movies I can put on when I’m in a more general audience and get everyone engaged in the horror to come. Wan has managed to replicate that same general acceptability in his sequel, The Conjuring 2, while fixing and improving the way the characters and scares progress to create a more coherent and unique story. This sequel is scarier, more unique, and leaves an impression far after viewing it.

The story follows the Warrens as they fly across to Britain to help resolve malevolent spiritual activity at the Hodgson residence. Everything from the way they get there ,to the way the haunting unravels, gives the movie a profound identity improvement compared to the first movie. The movie spends time giving the audience a view into the Hodgson’s style of life and really spends time developing our relationship with the girl at the center of all the spiritual activity, Janet. Wan goes to great lengths to show us the “life” sources for the family, the aspects of their everyday existence that they cling to to help them out in their dreary moments. Horrifying sequences become elevated because of their relation and attempted destruction of these sources. It’s what makes the scares in this movie distinct and fresh, as opposed to just well executed and predictable.

The “real event” status of the Enfield poltergeist is also treat with a healthy amount of respect. During the investigation, the Warrens try to find evidence of the haunting so that they can proceed with some kind of intervention. However, these attempts are always presented in a way to create skepticism. The movie makes use of the media frenzy that was happening during the haunting to inject a source of skepticism to counterbalance every one of the families claims. When characters doubt the veracity of Janet’s claims it’s understandable how they would be skeptical, so there’s no face-palm moment where you bemoan at how thick the characters are. It puts the audience in the strange position of being that person who claims to see the ghost but never has anyone believe in them. I’ve never quite rooted for a ghost to haunt a family even more, so said family could receive proper assistance, but this movie changed all of that.

I love how much the Warrens get developed in this movie. They’re some of the best fleshed horror protagonist and Wan manages to expand their characters without resorting to desperate gimmicks or contradicting their past depiction. The movie really hammers in how much Ed and Lorraine care (which is obviously helped by how much Wilson and Farmiga throw themselves into the roll, fully committing themselves to the supernatural phenomena at hand) about the people they help. I’ve heard people bemoan or chastise certain scenes in this movie as being “too cheesy” , but I heartily disagree. A lot of these moments are pivotal in demonstrating how adept the Warrens are at reading the groups they help and figuring out the most pragmatic way to assist them. It’s not just ghouls and ghosts that need dealing with. Sometimes, the most important thing you can do is help people feel like life still has good moments in store.

All the scares in this movie are just as good at getting you to jump in your seat, but this time they’re distinctive and memorable. There are sequences I’ve never seen in a horror movie before, and Wan somehow manages to make the haunting an creature feature of sorts without ever compromising the integrity of the rest of the story. Yes, there are some typical scares you’ll see coming from a mile away, but it’s how the movie manages make those scares relevant to the family at hand that makes them feel crisp.

Report Card

TLDRThe Conjuring 2 manages to somehow be even better than its predecessor. It takes all the best elements of the past movie and breathes a unique identity into them to help them stand out more. This is a supernatural family haunting story with real heart and distinctive scares. If you liked the first one, but thought it was a bit too generic, you’ll definitely appreciate how this one changes the formula.

I’m writing something more involved about this piece, so I’ll save the spoiler thoughts for that.

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