Review: The Conjuring 2
After the release of Insidious: Chapter 2 in 2013, director James Wan announced that he would no longer be directing horror films. After the critical failures of Insidious: Chapter 3 and The Conjuring spin-off Annabelle, it seems that Wan changed his mind. Now Wan is back in the director’s chair for The Conjuring 2, his final horror swan song.
The Conjuring 2 picks up some time after its predecessor while Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) are more controversial than ever. After working on the Amityville hauntings, the Warrens have found themselves in the spotlight, yet plagued with scrutiny. While the Amityville events have persuaded Lorraine to no longer take new cases, a haunting in Enfield, England sounds too strange to pass up. The Warrens head to 1980’s England, complete with The Clash’s London Calling, to help a single mother (Frances O’Connor) attend to the poltergeist in her home and her seemingly possessed daughter Janet (Madison Wolfe).
Wan upholds the brilliantly atmospheric tones of the first film while experimenting with some new genre techniques. While The Conjuring 2 is certainly a horror film, there is a strong a family drama narrative at play. The film uses the Enfield haunting as a catalyst for scares, yet it is very much a film about Ed and Lorraine Warren’s relationship. There are bits of charming romance sprinkled between the jump scares that ultimately separate this film from Wan’s other films and previous work in the horror genre. The Conjuring 2 is actually a rather sweet film. With Wilson crooning an Elvis tune while he plays guitar and some really lovely bedtime chats between Ed and Lorraine, it becomes rather easy to fall in love with and root for this fearless couple. With Vera Farmiga at the top of her game, Lorraine Warren becomes the hero of the film; a character who really needs her own franchise.
James Wan’s handle on the material is quite strong. The director has an deep understanding of the horror genre, knowing what works and what does not. While maintaining the atmosphere that makes his horror films so successful, Wan knows how and when to use each scare so that none is wasted. The Conjuring 2 is the rare horror film in which the audience is terrified when they need to be terrified, and laughs at some of the hokier moments, in place for that exact reason.
It is surprisingly difficult to compare The Conjuring 2 to its predecessor. Both strong, they are very different films. The scares in the second film never reach the level of the hide-and-clap scene from the first, yet this film has an increased understanding and dedication to its protagonists, making for a more involved viewing experience. Incomparable as they may be, like the first, The Conjuring 2 is a great film, sure to stand the test of time.