The Conjuring 2: Film Review
Cast: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Madison Wolfe, Frances O'Connor
Director: James Wan
Mining the source material of the Warrens' many investigations and combining it with the masterful direction of Insidious horror meister James Wan prove to be an intoxicating mix in The Conjuring 2.
Swathed in drab British 70s decor makes the recollection of the Enfield Haunting an unsettling and tautly directed horror that plays on primal fears and sees Wan dictating to his audience when and how to react.
Loosely the film starts off with Ed and Lorraine Warren (Wilson and Farmiga respectively reprising their roles from 3 years ago) concluding their investigation into a haunting in Amityville.
With Lorraine seriously spooked by a demon and Ed irritated at the scepticism and mockery they face, the duo decide to step back from the limelight.
However, on the other side of the world, in a council house on a London road, something deeply unsettling is manifesting with a single mom (Frances O'Connor) and her brood being haunted by something malevolent.
The Conjuring 2 is a terrifically taut and spookily executed horror piece, which uses some jump scares and long drawn-out scenes to great effect to make this a sequel that improves on the 2013 version.
If the Warrens are largely confined to the sidelines for great parts and only used in the second act in some cheesier moments (including drawing a relatively long bow connection to the two cases), Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga don't let it show with performances which render the main duo's earnestness and beacon of Christian hope both empathetic and likeable, even if the script doesn't quite serve them as well as it could.
Despite bizarrely concentrating on the romance and relationship of the duo, Lorraine's very threatened existence and portentous visions give the film a tangible edge of danger and contribute to one of the very best scenes of the film, set inside a study.
But it's more than Dick van Dyke demons which haunt Enfield that provide the inevitable scares and relative dread of the chilly oppressive atmosphere. (Even if the kids in jeopardy are blessed with some luv-a-duck accents). Granted, there are elements of The Exorcist and a lot of visuals from the Insidious series within, but there's a very palpable sense of dread that Wan draws from the suburban surroundings of a well executed house (complete with 70s trappings of David Soul posters on the bedrooms) and the way the cameras follow elements around, causing you to second guess when the shocks are coming.
Wan's clever drawing out of tension and ultimate measured and paced execution leads to some terrific edge of your seat stuff and a sequence with a painting that's on it's way to becoming a classic. Suspense and dread are the name of the game - even if in the finale everything is thrown at it when perhaps more would have been less. (And a post 2 hour run time seems a little excessive in the final mix).
This time, the Warrens feel less central to the proceedings bizarrely, given Wan concerns a lot of his time with the goings on in the Enfield house. It's a prescient move though, given the greatest elements of horror come from the age old trope of kids in jeopardy and this film knows how to milk that for maximum claustrophobic effect.
Unfortunately, those outside of proceedings seem surplus to dramatic requirements. The rest of the kids show up only to allow for further jeopardy, the mum seems to exist to dispatch only back-story given her husband's non-appearance on the scene, and other members of the Warrens' investigation team offer tantalising hints of what fractures could have been offered with differing points of view.
Ultimately though, The Conjuring 2 is a rare beast; a horror sequel that doesn't rely on cheap thrills and wanton audience manipulation to achieve its final aim.
It's a tense and creepy old school film that benefits greatly from a restrained approach and which leaves you feeling deeply unsettled throughout, even if some of the dramatic measures to get there take a large leap of faith.