In a world of low-ranked horror, The Conjuring was considered one of the best horror films to come out in the past few years. Which means its sequel, The Conjuring 2, not only has the wider world of horror to compete with, but also its own predecessor.
James Wan — a veritable franchise directing junkie — continues the series he started, joined by returning writers Carrie Hayes, Chad Hayes, and Aquaman scribe David Leslie Johnson. Like the first film, The Conjuring 2 follows another case investigated by real-life demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga reprising their roles), and the one considered their most famous: the Enfield haunting in 1977 London. Once again, a family needs the Warrens help. This time it isn't a house but a child being haunted, Janet Hodgson (Madison Wolfe), and her and her family's lives are being turned upside down with the force of the disruptive poltergeist that won't let her be.
Though the film doesn't release for another week on June 10, reviews have been trickling in today and we've rounded them up to find out if this one lives up to the hype.
The Film Doesn't Just Jumpstart Your Heart, It Warms It Too
Much of what kept the first film centered was its focus on issues of family and marriage. This next film stays true to that driving force. Sheri Linden of The Hollywood Reporter states in her review:
Amid the chills and thrills, the childhood anxieties and vulnerability, Wan has made a celebration of the demonologist duo’s marriage.
We Get A Taste Of Amityville
Similarly to the Annabelle doll prologue of the first film, the beginning of The Conjuring 2 gives us a look at one of the Warrens other notable cases: the Amityville haunting.
The Playlist writes about the effectiveness of this snippet:
In just a few minutes of prologue, the film creates a compelling take on the Amityville Horror story, as the Warrens investigate the familiar house and the murders that once occurred within. It creates effective chills out of such basic images as a lonely swing set at night, an old leather chair, and the image of a young girl, her face twisted in the throes of demonic possession.
It Has Classic Hollywood Horror Written All Over It
James Wan has discussed wanting to make horror films that are thoughtful and reminiscent of the great horror films of yore.
...when the couple gets [to London], they find a reheated buffet of Exorcist cliches: furniture that moves of its own accord, crucifixes that won’t stay rightside up, and an innocent 11-year-old girl (Madison Wolfe) speaking in a demonic Linda Blair voice.
But it sounds like the film would even fit in among horror heavy-hitters, says Mike Ryan at Uproxx:
...with the epic runtime, it feels like James Wan set out to make his own personal horror masterpiece. And the thing is, he just may have pulled it off.
Owen Gleiberman at Variety praises director James Wan referencing several horror giants:
'The Conjuring 2' makes it easy to revel, because Wan has a gift that most slam-bang horror directors today do not: a sense of the audience — of their rhythm and pulse, of how to manipulate a moment so that he’s practically controlling your breathing. His specialty is the tracking shot, with the camera whooshing forward, the way it did in 'The Shining,' only Wan, in 'The Conjuring 2,' sends it rushing through creaky floorboard hallways and cramped bedrooms, which are made to seem much larger because the images are so alive they’re almost vibrating.
The Set Design Alone Is Spooky
Several reviews reference the perfectly creepy climate created by set designer Julie Burghoff. Alonso Duralde at The Wrap has this to say:
...while a council flat in Enfield certainly wouldn’t be Edgar Allen Poe‘s idea of a haunted mansion, returning production designer Julie Burghoff provides plenty of unsettling dark corners, plus a level of damp, draft and rot that we rarely see when Hollywood shows British homes.
THR reporter Sheri Linden gives credit for the atmosphere to not only Berghoff but to the film's costume designer, editor and composer as well:
The house is an extraordinary creation by production designer Julie Berghoff, one of several key creative collaborators who have worked with Wan on both films; the others are costume designer Kristin M. Burke, editor Kirk Morri and composer Joseph Bishara, and their contributions are essential to the film’s dark power.
Even More Movie Packed In
The Conjuring 2 is an unheard-of-for-horror-movies 134 minutes. The first film was already pushing the usual 90-minute norm of other horror films by being an hour and 52 minutes long, why on earth do they need 2 hours and 14 minutes?
There are those who think the running time may be a bit excessive...
In their review, The Verge wrote:
'The Conjuring 2' stretches out to a bloated 134 minutes, as characters keep repeating tone-deaf behavior and unprofitable conversations.
But we're happy to hear from Uproxx that:
'The Conjuring 2' goes by extremely quickly for such a long film and is scarier than the first.
If the film is good and full of great scares the extra time could be worth it.
While word on the street is still scarce, so far the positives far outweigh the negatives. Although The Conjuring 2 might not replace its predecessor at the top of the horror must-see lists, it is certainly a worthy addition to a thriving franchise.