The Conjuring 2 - The Riles Review
The Conjuring of a couple years past was quite a solid movie. James Wan has a real knack for jumping in and out of particular genre boxes. If he wants to direct a balls-out action flick, he makes Furious 7. If he wants his shooting hardboiled and gritty, he makes Death Sentence. His penchant is clearly for horror movies, and The Conjuring 2 is by far his best entry to date. It is tirelessly horrifying and so expertly filmed that it stands to be one of the greatest supernatural horror movies of all time.
The Conjuring 2 finds paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren feeling burnt out from investigating, especially after the horrifying experience that was their run in with the Amityville home. But luck would have it that there is a home in England being terrorised by a spirit. It could be a hoax, or it could be a batshit insane miscarriage of evil that needs to die seven deaths.
“Based on a true story” held no weight for me at all. This film is so frightening that the phrase at the start of the movie is almost redundant. How much of what actually happens is probably very disputable, but I guess you sort of have to include that prefacing statement. Some points and threaded loops throughout the movie seem definitely doctored by the writers, but they work well in creating a narrative, while formulaic, that is gripping and intense. Kudos goes out to Wan and his set designers. The Hodgson family home is one creepy place. There is nothing good about a fog settles over decaying swing sets. The colour palette of light and shadows is visually arresting, and helps separate The Conjuring 2 from the rest of the flock. Most of the scares in the film are brilliantly set up, and play off of camera angles and lighting to remarkable effect. The scares play off of your expectations and tend to come out of nowhere. The film also has moments that are quite macabre and some of the stop-motion-like special effects give the film an appeal that would make Tim Burton cream his pants. The Burton moments help break what could’ve become monotony and keep a constant flow of surprises through the movie. Much like he did with Insidious, Wan makes characters and demons that are horrific and iconic. They lean far into a more bizarre, surreal sort of nature than your typical Paranormal Activity-esque fare, all the while maintaining a very real threat.
The minute the film starts, it is already playing you for fear. It never lets up. There are small moments of calm, and particular musical queues attempting to let you know you’re safe for a little while, but they all feel undermined by the dread that’s always boiling underneath. The film never lets up. Watching this was a full-body experience. I was sweating, and trembling because I was constantly anticipating the next thing that would add soil to my trousers. Once something appeared to scare me, it was very successful in doing so. The movie is so intense and so successful in building this world and characters it stands up next to classics like The Exorcist. Although with all this praise, the film falls into your typical horror pitfall once or twice. The characters are all well-rounded and well-written but not all of them make the best decisions. It doesn’t happen often, but it is often enough to notice. For paranormal investigators, and the true believers who surround them, they can be right dickheads when it comes to approaching a dangerous supernatural entity.
Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga are strong both together and individually, making the Warrens quite human and three-dimensional. For the two movies they’ve played together, and how many more this little connected universe probably wants to produce, they’re clearly going from strength to strength.
All the Hodgson kids are good, even if one of them seems to be neglected the whole time. Madison Wolfe plays Janet, the child who the spirit seems to pick on. She’s great, but she’s not Linda Blair great, which is probably the one thing I think that stops the film from lapping The Exorcist. Frances O’Connor is remarkable as the mother Hodgson. Her performance grounded the whole Hodgson family, and I feel is one of the standouts. Simon McBurney and and Franka Potente also co-star and provide great bookends for all the characters’ thoughts about whether it’s a hoax or not. They add a fantastic layer to the cast.
Wrapping it Up...
James Wan continues to prove that he’s got a gift behind the camera, and his new and recurring cast members are all so talented that that the shortcomings are left behind. I definitely did not come out of this disappointed.
The Conjuring 2 - 9/10