The Conjuring 2 (2016)

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“After everything we’ve seen, there isn’t much that rattles either of us anymore.”

Fairly early in the film, young Janet (Madison Wolfe) sits on the couch in her London flat to watch the telly. Her single mother’s at work, siblings at school while Janet stays home sick due to recent torment from terrible night scares. The scene is bright and early. The TV flips channels, the remote moves, loud static screeches despite straight bunny ear antennas. It’s an intense couple of minutes, and an example of foreseeable unease. We don’t need to stumble around with a flashlight or check under the bed (two things the film unsurprisingly does well). All fear stems from an inability to connect with something unknown. Irregardless of how routine the last act eventually becomes, The Conjuring 2 conveys the fact that distress does not discriminate; it conspires and it infiltrates.

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With their work being illegitimized and a deadly premonition planted in their heads, demonologists Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) and Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson) decide it best to hang up their hats. When they get a London calling about the Hodgson family, the couple can’t help but investigate further. Hailed as the English Amityville, the Warrens see signs pointing towards a possible spirit manipulating Janet. Voices, figures, levitation. You name it you got it. And still, director James Wan uses familiarities to further explore the science behind and the justification for feeling afraid. Impressive shots enter a house from the exterior with no cut, sometimes vice versa, the effect mimicking that of a ghost’s intrusion. So even though there are gotcha moments and jump scares, Wan’s precise balance between light/dark and loud/quiet grounds this based on a true horror story film in a believable reality.

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The Conjuring 2 is well-written, acted, directed. As expected from a Wan film, all of the technical departments are deserving of recognition. I’m still baffled by the movie’s last third though. By that point it just feels long – which it is by about 10 minutes – and a little too tiresome as well. Dread becomes convention. Questions turn into on the nose answers. A lot of the storytelling prowess is surrendered over to wrap up nice and neat. The entire movie is really missing a definite sense of time too. Nonetheless, that’s nitpicking a film that for two-thirds of its runtime is up there with the most entertaining pictures of the summer.

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We know the quality acting that we’re going to get from Farmiga and Wilson headlining a really rounded out cast. Madison Wolfe is a newer face to me though, and as the focal point of the film’s events, she deftly carries the weight with a surprising amount of range. Terrified, strong, vulnerable, dignified. It’s a great performance in a genre that isn’t appreciated enough for how hard it is to sell and then deliver real scares. They’re not necessarily chilling either, but in the realm of the extraordinarily empathetic. I was still letdown by the cliched and expedient finale though, especially considering the strength of what comes beforehand. However, the script remains strong, the story pushes forward, and the audience stays always engaged. The Conjuring 2 isn’t an amazing horror film, but it is an entertaining movie, and one that depicts contextual images and actions open to interpretation. After all, we’re not all afraid of the same things.

“Sometimes what we do requires a leap of faith.”

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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