Movie Review: ‘The Conjuring 2’


 

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Plot:  The Conjuring 2 once again follows the exploits of paranormal investigators Lorraine and Ed Warren (Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson).  One year after the events of the Amityville Horror, the Warrens are called upon by the Catholic Church to investigate a haunting in Enfield, England.  A poltergeist has been terrorizing the family of Peggy Hodgson (Frances O’Connor), specifically eleven year old Janet Hodgson (Madison Wolfe).  As Janet’s possession spirals out of control, it’s up to the Warrens to deliver the Hodgsons from this terrifying evil.

Review:  Typically, I don’t watch many horror movies.  It’s nothing deliberate as I adore the genre, it’s just a fact of my cinematic experience. I freely admit that I hadn’t seen the first Conjuring going into this film.  I also knew next to nothing regarding Lorraine and Ed Warren other than their participation in the Amityville Horror incident.  Thankfully, neither of those things were required, as the sequel stands on its own as a separate paranormal experience.

But the key question, as with any horror film:  is it scary?

The answer is an unequivocal yes.  Not only is The Conjuring 2 a magnificently well written, acted, and directed film, it’s one of the scariest movies I’ve ever seen.

Director James Wan (SawFurious 7) continues to impress with each passing film.  He’s arguably the Wes Craven/John Carpenter of this generation.  Great horror all comes down to setting a mood and Wan does it with every shot.  Whether it’s a slowly dripping faucet, a close-up of a phone ringing, or a blurry background shot where a child morphs into the ghost of an old man, Wan’s The Conjuring 2 revels in classic horror motifs.  And yet it doesn’t come across as derivative but fresh and original.  Wan’s attention to detail regarding the 1970s setting also comes through in an authentic way that never once feels cheesy.  Oh and that scene from the previews where the room full of crosses all turn upside down?  Even scarier in the movie.

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However, the tone that Wan establishes would mean nothing without the script.  In my experience more than two screenwriters usually results in disaster.  However screenwriters Wan, Chad Hayes, Cary Hayes, and David Leslie Johnson have crafted a brilliant script.  There’s a meticulousness to every line and moment.  Nothing is left to chance.  The fact that The Conjuring 2 creates a terrifying moment between Lorraine and a demon IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY, speaks volumes.  Elitist movie critics tend to dismiss the horror genre out of hand and I feel bad for them if they do because The Conjuring 2 is a great movie, not just a great horror movie.

Of course none of this works without a strong cast and The Conjuring 2 has that in spades.  Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga possess great chemistry and are perfectly cast as Ed and Lorraine Warren.  Their passion for the paranormal is exceeded only by their love for each other.  People that gravitate towards the odd (or at least what society defines as odd) often have a difficult time fitting in.  However, it is Lorraine and Ed’s inherent weirdness that makes them perfect puzzle pieces for each other.  They are also people of tremendous faith (both agents of the Catholic Church) especially Lorraine.  Her experience with the Amityville Horror and a reoccuring vision of Ed dying, prompts her to stop interfering in paranormal incidents.  This is reinforced through an incredibly intense and terrifying scene in Lorraine’s own home, where the demon she believes will kill her husband, reveals itself to her.  However, like an old fighter drawn out of retirement for one last fight, the Enfield horror case draws Ed and Lorraine across the pond to a family in desperate need of their help.

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As fantastic as Wilson and Farmiga are, it’s Madison Wolfe’s portrayal of the possessed eleven year old Janet Hodgson that really steals the show.  At only thirteen years of age, Wolfe gives a riveting and nuanced performance that many experienced actors wouldn’t be able to pull off.  Wolfe manages to exude terrifying moments, such as speaking to a TV news crew in a demonic voice.  However, she also is able to inspire true empathy from the audience, especially in the scene where she meets Lorraine for the first time.  We really feel for Janet, her distraught mother Peggy (in a solid performance from Frances O’Connor), and her brothers and sisters.  The haunting is as devastating as any type of regular harassment or hate crime.

The Conjuring 2 is not without its faults however.  There’s a horrible CGI moment early in the film, a couple unnecessary jump scares, and the studio goes for the pat happy Hollywood ending.  Additionally, I got the sense that anyone who doesn’t believe in the paranormal is being close-minded, which is slightly heavy-handed.

These are minor gripes though.  Overall The Conjuring is a phenomenal achievement in horror and with the plethora of prominent cases the Warrens investigated, I’m sure it will only be a matter of time before we see The Conjuring 3 in theaters.

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My rating:  9/10

Q: Would I buy this movie, accept as a gift, or burn on sight?  A:  Buy.

REMEMBER THIS REVIEW, LIKE ALL MY REVIEWS, ARE MERELY OPINION.  ULTIMATELY THE ONLY OPINION THAT MATTERS ON A FILM IS YOUR OWN.

 

You can follow me on Twitter at @DarthGandalf1

 

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