By Thomas Simpson
Modern horror maestro James Wan returns with The Conjuring 2, a dramatized account of real life British haunting, the Enfield Poltergeist. The prequel, 2013’s The Conjuring, was a hit with critics as well as fans who praised the film for its old-school horror theatrics. Expectations were high for the sequel and it doesn’t disappoint.
Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) wind down their investigations due to Lorraine’s nightmarish visions and the increased skepticism the couple face. When they are informed of a case across the pond, dubbed the English Amityville, Ed is desperate to get involved as he feels it’s his duty to help the Hodgson family who have fell victim to a powerful entity. Lorraine is hesitant but eventually agrees. Despite the overwhelming evidence in the family’s favor, there are those that believe an elaborate hoax is at work. A scenario that may be more preferable to the evil that lingers.
The Conjuring 2 isn’t averse to the odd jump scare, but Wan doesn’t rely on them for cheap pops. He carefully creates an atmosphere of terror that he allows to gradually build, sustaining it when necessary and never allowing the audience to really settle.
He isn’t afraid to show the source of the haunting in all its glory. However, The Conjuring 2 is most effective when you catch something out the corner of your eye. A technique Wan has mastered.
The main criticism is the runtime. At over two hours, Wan spends half of the movie setting up the eventual meeting between the Warrens and the Hodgsons when it could have been dealt with in the first 20 minutes. As a result, the same eeriness is built up repeatedly without much escalation. When we do get to the third act there is no holding back as the tension is turned up to 11 and you’ll be gripping the armrest with one hand and covering your eyes with the other.
The Conjuring 2 is a truly unsettling experience that has been crafted to frighten, an achievement it exceeds. It’s built on a tight script by Chad Hayes, Carey Hayes and David Leslie Johnson while accompanied by solid performances by the cast. A special mention must be reserved for Joseph Bishara whose nightmarish score elevates the film above its rivals. Don’t watch it alone.
Thomas Simpson is a writer and filmmaker based in Glasgow, U.K. Find him on Twitter: @Simmy41.