The Conjuring 2 (2016)
<<This review may contain implicit spoilers>>
13 November 1974: The killing by Ronald DeFeo Jr. of his family in Amityvile, New York. This is one of the most known investigative cases of Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga), a famous couple of paranormal investigators. However, this time the event takes place three years after, in 1977, in the London Borough of Enfield, UK. There, a working-class family is plagued by the mysterious happenings in their house: tappings, strange voices, broken toys, flying objects…and, young Janet Hodgson (11) (Madison Wolfe), unwittingly becoming the “focus” of their home’s evil spirit. Basing the film on a true story and being supported by a very talented cast, director James Wan once again shows that he is the director to be reckoned with when it comes to the modern film industry’s take on the traditional horror genre.
What is immediately striking about “The Conjuring 2” is the story the movie is based on: the so-called “Enfield Poltergeist” is a “true” story, probably one of the most believed paranormal activity stories in the world. From 1977 to 1979 a family (a single mother and her four children), living in a council house in Brimsdown, Enfield, had experienced strange occurrences in their house, which were well-documented (through audio tapes and eyewitness statements) by numerous investigators and journalists at the time. There was everything: from Lego bricks flying and cold breezes to people levitating, possessions and physical assaults. Thus, “The Conjuring 2”’s initial attraction is the “true” story it is based on (the movie follows the story pretty faithfully), and an admirable attention to detail. The year 1977 and the place of occurrences are “recreated” in detail, from the street in Enfield and wall posters in children’s room to Janet’s “iconic” red nightgown (even though there are certain inconsistencies, such as the fact that the Warrens were not as heavily involved in the case).
Another true thing about the movie is the questioning of veracity of the Hodgson family accounts. As it is clear from the movie, some people, such as inventor Maurice Grosse (played by Simon McBurney) and writer Guy Lyon Playfair did believe the girls (Janet and her sister Margaret (13)) about the Poltergeist, while others thought the children were making things up to draw attention. It is a nice thing that even such speculations are creeping into the movie, making “The Conjuring 2” more documentary-like and conscious of the real events behind the screenplay. However, the downside of all that is that, much like “Experimenter” (2015), the movie will appeal much less to people who are more or less familiar with the story. It could even appear uninteresting, so notoriously well-known the “Enfield Poltergeist” story is around the world.
Another great thing about the film is, of course, its big scare factor. Since the director is James Wan, a man known for such great horror thrills and suspense as those found in “Saw” (2004) and “The Conjuring” (2013), this comes as no surprise. Some scenes in the movie are genuinely scary and tense – there are toys moving by themselves, demonic voices coming from a young girl, and, of course, the notorious dodgy play with the TV set (what ghost movie can bypass this sequence since “Poltergeist” (1982)?) “The Conjuring 2” is also, of course, based on the Warren Files, and the true nature of the case makes the film even creepier.
Here comes another important component of “The Conjuring 2”’s success: its actors. Patrick Wilson (“Hard Candy” (2005)) and Vera Farmiga (“The Departed” (2006)) as Ed and Lorraine Warren reprise their previous roles from “The Conjuring”, and, with their “poker” faces, are perfectly cast as a pair of loved-up investigators who would risk their lives to help others and uncover the truth. The cast of Maurice Grosse (Simon McBurney) is spot-on, and the single mother of children, Peggy, played by Frances O’Connor, is also believable. In fact, Maurice is such a character that it would even have made sense to cut the Warrens out of the story completely, and, instead, focus on this amateur paranormal investigator, who is full of zeal for the strange happenings on Green street in Enfield, London. However, who truly shines the most here, is Madison Wolfe in the role of young Janet. The young actress performs her role convincingly, and, undoubtedly, will go far in her acting career, seeing that at the tender age of 14 she has already been cast in such high-grossing films as “Joy” (2015) and “Trumbo” (2015).
However, whether through the scriptwriter or director’s oversight, but, as became usual with James Wan films, there is problem with general direction and commitment to purpose. The first half of “The Conjuring 2” is supposed to concern itself with strange happenings, while the second half of the film devoted to the investigation of the case. However, what we see in the film’s second half is the illogical “jump” from the Enfield Poltergeist story to the “evil nun” spirit story involving the Warrens (aka the “Hag” from the “Insidious” (2010)?) This story confusion and the introduction of overlapping stories also happened in “The Conjuring”, where Wan tried to tie the story of a haunted house with the story of a haunted doll, but failed miserably. This problem of focus may be due to the misconception that just one scary story is not enough in a horror movie, and more story lines would somehow make things better – a bad thinking.
“The Conjuring 2” is also too long and there is some useless talk in the second part of the film, but, on a more positive side, the movie has a nice culmination, and the film does make for a successful revival of something nostalgic and intriguing – the classic horror genre.
James Wan’s “The Conjuring 2” may be lacking in originality, clearly evident in such films as “Saw” (2004) or “Insidious”, but where the movie lacks in originality, it takes in authenticity and in the scare department. The result? If you are into the traditional horror genre, James Wan’s latest addition is a definite must-watch. 7/10