Lorraine and Ed Warren travel to Enfield, England to help a single mother and her four children against an evil and tormenting spirit. The Enfield haunting went on to become one of the most documented cases in paranormal history.
James Wan (The Conjuring) has returned to direct this highly anticipated sequel which sees the Warren's tackle "England's Amityville". A malicious spirit haunts the Hodgson family and more specifically, young Janet Hodgson played terrifically well by Madison Wolfe (Joy). Strange things are occurring in the Hodgson residence, some believe the family, but others remain skeptical, which brings Ed and Lorraine into the picture, who are there to observe and report back to the church.
The Conjuring back in 2013 absolutely blew me away and proved to be a mega hit at the Box Office, personally I'm not a huge horror fan but the way that Wan directed the picture was simply remarkable, it was a well rounded and fully entertaining film with great characters, so I was filled with relief when I heard he was returning to the sequel, which unfortunately doesn't quite hit the highs of the first film, but remains a thrilling and spine tingling entry in the genre.
At the heart of the story are Patrick Wilson (Watchmen) and Vera Farmiga (Up In The Air) as real life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, a married couple who take on cases of the paranormal, hoping to do their part and rid the world of evil. Yet again, Wilson and Farmiga are the standouts of the film, both actors give wonderful performances and have terrific chemistry with one another. After Lorraine suffers a horrifying vision of a demonic and unforgettably terrifying Nun and the brutal death of her husband during the investigation of Amityville in 1976, she is cautious about taking on more cases for a while, but after hearing the reports from Enfield, the two agree that they could be of some help. Wan gives us a look inside the head of Lorraine Warren, as she delves into the paranormal and experiences these horrifying visions, this added a whole new level to her character and built upon the chilling stillness of Farmiga's performance and presence.
Before the Warren's arrive to England, Wan lets us spend some time with the Hodgson family, even before the haunting begins. We get a good sense of the family and also their house. Like the first film, Wan incorporates a very mobile camera, creating a great sense of place and location, so when the haunting begins and characters are running from room to room, we understand where they're going. Frances O'Connor who plays the single mother of the family gives a heartbreaking performance, she's struggling to keep her children safe from the increasingly dangerous bumps in the night. By the time Ed and Lorraine arrive to Enfield, the case has already caused a media circus, many claiming that the entire situation is a hoax put on by young Janet.
The first film had a great realistic edge to it, the use of practical effects gave the horror a tangible feeling and whilst the sequel doesn't go ridiculous with its effects, there are some moments of CGI which I could have done without. One of the creatures that the spirit manifests into is a tall, faceless "Crooked Man" and he's brought to life using CGI and he looked very out of place and every time he appeared, I was sucked out of the story. Thankfully there is still a large use of practical effects and makeup.
James Wan has proven himself many times in the horror genre; he kicked off the Saw franchise, he directed the first two Insidious films and of course the first Conjuring film, he's a master of his craft and knows how to thrill and scare an audience. The first Conjuring film didn't rely on a tonne of jump scares, the director created a truly haunting environment and would let the camera hang on certain scary images but this sequel is a lot more conventional in that sense, there is a bigger reliance on jump scares which make for a highly entertaining cinema experience but a film that most likely won't hold up as well as it's predecessor.
Horror has become a rather stale genre in the past decade, 70% of contemporary horror films all seem the same so it's refreshing when a director like James Wan has real admiration and respect for the genre. The Conjuring 2 is a very well crafted film, there's real effort behind the terror and also characters that we can root for, which is something the horror genre sorely lacks. Unlike many horror directors, Wan isn't interested in creating the most violent or stylish kill, he's all about creating a tone and manipulating that tone to toy with your expectations. Wan makes great use of every dark corner, every room in the house and knows when to hold onto a scare and when to release it upon the audience. There's a constant sense of dread, even when Ed picks up a guitar and performs as Elvis to calm the family from the terror that lurks around them.
The Conjuring 2 is a thrilling, scary and surprisingly quite fun entry in the horror genre, it's not quite the contemporary classic that the first film is but it's a solid and worthy sequel. I'm giving the film an 8/10.