Director James Wan has proven himself to be a master of the horror genre. Whether with the edgy Saw, the creative and creepy Insidious, or the traditional haunted-house folktale of The Conjuring, Wan has clearly developed and honed his skills in the genre. The Conjuring 2 is not only an evolution in the series' mythology but an interesting combination of elements from a few of his other films. Let's look at what makes The Conjuring 2 such an interesting turning point in Wan's career.
Here's the trailer, to get you in the mood:
Note: Any real spoilers are marked, but if you are someone who doesn't want to know anything about the movie before you see it, then I suggest you skip this article.
Wan has developed a reputation for starting his movies out strong. The Conjuring is famous for its opening sequence with Annabelle, and The Conjuring 2 starts out with a brief retelling of the Amityville Horror legend, which is creepier than the original movie.
When Lorraine goes into her trance during the investigation of the house, she is forced to take on the role of the murderer Ronald DeFeo, Jr. The editing style, as well as watching Lorraine commit shotgun murders, is a huge attention grabber.
This movie's runtime is more than two hours — about 30 minutes longer than the first one. Many critics think the film is too long, but I appreciate the time Wan took to try to flesh out the characters, instead of giving us one-dimensional cardboard cutouts that simply get moved from scary room to scary room.
When I talk about character development, I'm also including the supernatural entities. We finally have a ghost that explains what it's doing and why it's doing it, instead of just slamming doors and moving toys on a whim.
I appreciate the fact that the family goes public with their supernatural scares instead of trying to keep them a secret. The interactions between the fairly large cast of characters — from priests to media to skeptical academics — helps to develop the family's personality.
Special Effects And Editing
There are a few scenes in the movie that involve the Crooked Man, for whom the filmmakers use a very creepy, jerky special-effects technique, similar to stop motion. It's pretty unnerving. In addition, there are a few moments that use an interesting jump-edit technique on characters so they appear to move in unnatural ways. This also works to keep us, the audience, off-kilter.
The Crooked Man is my favorite part of the movie. It comes from a little zoetrope toy the kids have. There are dream sequences and visions when the drawing comes to life as a sort of grotesque Tim Burton animated thing. It's really cool.
Using Our Knowledge Of Horror Films Against Us
The movie has the usual jump scares throughout. But Wan is clever; he knows that we know what to expect, and there are a few scenes in which he gives a slight twist to throw us off.
For example, there's a nice scene when the girl runs to her room. Normally this would be when something is waiting for her, and at first you do see something standing on the other side of her dresser. Then you realize it's just a poster. That made me laugh, since Wan clearly caught me expecting a surprise attack.
The Controversy Over The True Story
Over the years, many people have determined that the true events that inspired the movie were a hoax, and that the Warrens themselves were frauds. Wan does not ignore that tidbit in the movie. There's a whole subplot dedicated to the possibility that the family is making it all up. For example, the movie shows some of the real pictures of the original case, and characters question whether the girl is being levitated by an evil force or if she is just jumping off the bed.
Wan also gives a few more subtle winks to the skeptics in the audience; in this way, the movie toes a weirdly satisfying line. People that need to believe it's a true story can, while the people that don't need it to be fact in order to think it's a good movie can relax and just enjoy it for what it is.
The Conjuring 2 still offers a pretty traditional format, but it is different than the first one. I liked this one better (as did many critics), though not everybody may agree with me. No matter which one you prefer, there is no denying James Wan's talent for telling a good ghost story.