In 2013 “The Conjuring” came along like a breath of fresh air in an otherwise bland and stale horror genre. The film used some familiar approaches, but it also featured a good, creepy story and two very compelling characters. It was a wonderful horror picture and a surprise box office hit. With a modest $20 million budget the film managed to earn $320 million which pretty much guarantees a sequel in today’s Hollywood.
Now it is 2016, the horror genre is still pretty bland and stale, and along comes “The Conjuring 2” to give it another swift kick in the pants. James Wan returns to direct and co-write this second installment of the terrifying adventures of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. This time he is give $40 million and already the film seems on track to bring in a big return.
Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga reprise their roles as the Warrens this time six years after the events of the first film. It is 1976 and they are fresh off their most publicized case in Amityville, New York. During the encounter Lorraine experiences a horrifying vision which haunts her well after the case ends. Due to her fears the couple agree to step away from their supernatural investigations.
One year later a single mother named Peggy Hodgson (Frances O’Connor) and her four children believe they are being haunted by a violent spirit in their London council house. The Catholic Church asks Ed and Lorraine to go to London to see if there is any validity to the claims. Upon arrival they find that the spirit seems to have targeted 11 year-old Janet Hodgson (Madison Wolfe). The Warrens witness a series of anomalies and must determine the true cause.
The Warren characters we get may be fictionalized versions of the real people, but Wilson and Farmiga bring such personality to each. They still have the same wonderful chemistry and the script smartly manages to further explore their relationship through the events they are experiencing. Their mutual love and faithfulness is something refreshing and unique. I love these two characters and the two performances.
A surprising amount of attention is given to the Hodgson family. Some may struggle with Wan’s pacing, but he intentionally spends time developing their relationships, their social and economic struggles, and of course the frightening things that begin happening in their home. They are easy for us to care for. The writers simply don’t allow them to be disposable characters.
But first and foremost this is a horror movie and thankfully it is every bit as good as its predecessor. The film has its share of jump scares which Wan can build up to better than anyone. But he is more focused on the unsettling creepiness of what his audience sees. So many moments brim with tension simply based on the way Wan deliberately orchestrates the scene or moves his camera. And once again he doesn’t have to rely on blood and gore despite the film’s R rating.
“The Conjuring 2” is a superb sequel that delivers another genuinely spooky experience. It employs several familiar horror movies devices, but as with the first film it uses them in its own unique way. There is a very old-fashioned horror movie approach to these films that I adore. The sequel wisely embraces that formula while also telling another compelling story from the Warren’s casebook. I’m often hesitant when it comes to horror sequels, but if Wan and company can continue this type of quality I’m anxious to see where Ed and Lorraine go next.