Ed and Lorraine Warren’s work with the paranormal is so dense and inviting, that it’s surprising it took until 2013’s The Conjuring before their stories were actually given the film treatment. However, it comes as a little surprise following the success of the original film, that even more of the Warrens’ case studies are being adapted for the silver screen now, and in director James Wan’s The Conjuring 2, we get to see the film bring to life not one, but two, much more well-known and cultivated hauntings in recorded history, to varying degrees of success.
Opening with an enthralling and engaging cinematic sequence set at the home of the Amityville Horrors, Wan and his co-writers, Carey Hayes, Chad Hayes, and David Leslie Johnson, offer an interesting take on the well-known paranormal story, as Vera Farmiga’s Lorraine Warren relives the horrifying murders committed at the house, which some believe were brought on by an evil, demonic force inhabiting it. Unfortunately, while the sequence is well-structured and scarily effective, it serves more as a reintroduction to the lead duo, as well as setting up the rest of the film’s story, including it’s central evil force, despite its memorable and inventive visual style.
After that, the film begins its deep dive into the Enfield Haunting of 1977, in which a small English family began to describe furniture moving in unexplained manners and unsettling knocking and noises in their house, before it was then said to be the subject of both levitation and demonic possession, with daughter Janet Hodgson (Madison Wolfe) being the main target of the house’s demonic and evil spirit, with its form being that of an old man who died years earlier in the house, who throughout a majority of the film’s runtime seems fixated on frightening the family enough until they leave. This is, until Ed and Lorraine arrive and learn that not everything may be as it appears when it comes to the forces terrorizing the Hodgson family.
Once again, James Wan continue to prove himself as not only one of the most technically skilled voices of the horror genre, but of the blockbuster realm as a whole as well. In The Conjuring 2, the veteran filmmaker makes the best of his surroundings, introducing you to the environments and key items of the film, before the real horror begins. Using wide shots and angles to keep as much in frame at one time as he can, watching The Conjuring 2 is worth it just to see what he chooses to show you and what he doesn’t, and even more interestingly when he chooses to show you it.
His technical prowess particularly shines during two scenes: one involving a very unique use of a TV remote and a living room, that builds up in suspense until the final jump scarewith ease and precision, but also during an unexpected scene set in Ed’s office, which uses light and darkness in interesting ways, and is perhaps the film’s best use of both practical and CGI effects. Though not all of the film’s monsters and ghosts particularly succeed, with one very CGI-heavy, animated character standing out from the rest a bit too much, though he might not have had it not been for all of the film’s other seamlessly practical ghosts and monsters. Unfortunately, the glaringly apparent difference removes the horror from a number of the scenes he’s in.
Both Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson do the best with what they have as well, returning as Ed and Lorraine Warren here, with Farmiga once again proving to be the standout of the two, even despite some of the clunky and strange dialogue she’s given in the second half of the film. Wilson does get a chance to shine as well though, during one particular conversation with the Hodgsons’ mean-spirited ghoul, that benefits once again from Wan’s unique choice of framing and focus, which unlike the film’s other CGI-heavy moments, capitalizes on showing us as little as possible, only shapes and forms, and allowing the rest of the horror to be filled in by our imaginations.
Unfortunately, despite Wan’s technically sound directing and the solid acting all around from its cast, the film’s script doesn’t quite seem to know where its going, a problem that becomes glaringly apparent after the hour mark of the film, when the night terrors begin again and while still frightening and tense, begin to lose their effectiveness due mostly to the film’s repetitive and muddling nature. Things happen in the film’s third act that don’t quite make much sense as well, with characters jumping to strange conclusions and things happening to simply draw the film out, which is already too long with a total run time of 2 hours and 15 minutes. Events and motivations are attempted to be pieced together, but too often at the end of the film, they’re held there only by a thin pieces of convenience.
The film’s balance between Ed and Lorraine’s story and the Hodgsons as well, feels slightly off-balanced, and while their interactions together work in the second half of the film, it’s unclear who exactly the main characters are, and particularly, who’s even driving the narrative forward. This is perhaps when the film’s pacing takes the biggest hit as well, with the scares not being nearly as effective, and the film moving from a slow burn into a fairly boring lull.
Following its memorable and striking 2013 predecessor though, The Conjuring 2 can’t quite seem to find the same magic that Wan and co. did three years ago, due mostly to the film’s uneven and muddled script. So even though Wan’s impressive technical style and instinct when it comes to suspense and atmosphere do make up for a large majority of the script’s flaws, The Conjuring 2 relies a bit too heavily on jump scares to keep its momentum and story going. It’s a fun and fine summer addition to the genre, and should serve well when it comes to its stuff-popcorn-in-your-face scares, but it doesn’t seem to hold up all that well in the hours following an initial viewing.
The Conjuring 2 is set to hit theatres on June 10th.
Make sure to keep checking back for more updates — right here on GeekNation.
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