James Wan once again avoids the second-installment curse, creating what might be the best horror sequel since Scream 2. A remarkable addition to his resume puts Wan one step closer to cementing himself on the Mount Rushmore of horror directors. The Conjuring 2 is a complex, segmented narrative that’s far more dramatic and symbolic than one might expect in a mainstream horror movie. Leaning a bit much on computer-generated scares and undeniably coloring by numbers, The Conjuring 2 will still thrill and chill most audience members. Though it contains numerous horror clichés and expected haunted house tropes, the instances best preceding examples, making them excusable, for the most part.
This chapter of the Conjuring saga catches up with Ed and Lorraine Warren six years after the Perron case, featured in the first installment, as they wrap up their investigation of the infamous house in Amityville. While Lorraine astral projects during a séance purposed to determine whether supernatural forces are responsible for the grisly and notorious murders, she witnesses Ed meet a gruesome fate at the hand of a force which appears to be a sort of demonic nun. Lorraine is shaken by her vision, which returns to her more than once, and insists they take a break from their paranormal investigations. A year later, the story of an afflicted young girl showing increasing signs of demonic possession in the London borough of Enfield reaches the Warrens, and they reluctantly decide to investigate. Still shaken by her vision of Ed’s death, Lorraine warns him not to become too involved with the case. While staying with the family of the young girl in Enfield, the Warrens team with fellow paranormal investigators to determine the legitimacy of the horrifying events plaguing the house and its residents. The spirit of an old man claiming to be the rightful resident of the house makes himself known, but nothing is ever that simple when the Warrens are involved. An elaborate, faith-laced horror-drama unfolds as the couple battles the forces at work while attempting to escape Lorraine’s envisioned fate for Ed.
Returning stars Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga give some of their best performances in recent memory, and that’s saying a lot for both of them. Wilson has become the de facto juggernaut of horror actors and Farmiga always dazzles in her horror roles (The Conjuring and Bates Motel), with exceeding amounts of eminence and grace. Lack of chemistry can kill an on-screen duo, but this couple has it in spades. They properly convey the feeling of an authentic relationship and seem to feed off one another’s energy. Horror lovers would surely be elated to see the two continue their roles for years to come. Madison Wolfe and Frances O’Connor also supply admirable performances as daughter and mother Janet and Peggy Hodgson. O’Connor perfectly expresses the mental state of a broken mother desperate to protect her children, and young Wolfe possesses an impressive command of her craft for her age.
Wan and co-writers Chad and Carey Hayes fleshed out empathetic characters who, although pitted in a rather unbelievable scenario, feel real with relatable problems. The impecunious family is vulnerable, yet caring and loving. The children are bullied. The mother is visibly frayed from not having enough money to support a hungry family of four. The audience can sense their pain. It seems reasonable that a demonic presence would target them during their time of vulnerability.
As with Wan’s other films (e.g., Insidious), gorgeous cinematography and unsettling atmosphere breathe into life from the opening moments and stick around until the bloody end. Scenes rarely, if ever, feel rushed, and the artistic aspects of camera work and scene construction, such as framing, balance, and, never take a backseat. Tight, pale shots and impeccable costuming and set design snares audiences into the world Wan has meticulously crafted. Viewers are transported to the fictional universe and are able to remain there unfettered for 133 minutes. A hair-raising, eldritch vibe permeates from every surface and texture. A looming sense of dread is conveyed even without the presence or efforts of an actor.
Despite not having an extensive amount of screen time, images of the main villain might be what cling to your memory with the most ferocity.