THE CONJURING 2
An American Exorcist In London
Have the makers successfully pulled off another trick?
released OUT NOW! 15 | 134 minutes Director James Wan Cast Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Frances O’Connor, Madison Wolfe
“I like to hear them scream,” gurgles the ghoul plaguing the poor old Hodgson family in The Conjuring 2, a sentiment that director James Wan clearly shares. Despite declaring that he was finished with horror after 2013’s Insidious: Chapter 2 and The Conjuring, this sequel sees him return to the genre where he cut his teeth with a film as packed with jump scares and grinning demons as any of his others.
If you saw the first Conjuring, you’ll know what to expect. A family is being terrorised by an unquiet spirit, so the ghostbusting Warrens, Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga), come to the rescue. All of the ingredients that made the first film so satisfyingly spooky are present and correct: a creepy house, a horde of cute wide-eyed moppets, a soundtrack laced with loud bangs, and a smorgasbord of malevolent ghosts. The main difference this time is the location, as the Warrens are dragged across the Atlantic to a grimy council house in north London.
There, 11-year-old Janet Hodgson (Madison Wolfe) has started talking in the voice of a crotchety 73-year-old man and levitating around her bedroom. Her brother Billy (Benjamin Haigh) is also being harassed by things that go bump in the night, while the rest of the family has to put up with chairs and tables scooting around of their own accord.
As hauntings go, it’s pretty standard, and it should be an easy win for the Warrens, but they’ve got other problems to worry about: Lorraine’s having visions of Ed’s death, while he’s struggling to cope with the negative press they’ve received after their involvement with the Amityville hoax.
Plenty of drama there, then, and the whopping two-and-a-quarter hour runtime means there’s time to deal with everyone’s personal demons as well as the actual ones. Even relatively minor characters, like British investigator Maurice Gross (Simon McBurney), get space to share their stories. But while all that heartfelt stuff does add some colour, it tends not to advance the plot. Instead, it slows down the action, making the film unwieldy and bloated; the pace screeches to more than one frustrating halt before really getting down to business.
What’s more annoying is that Wan has recycled some of the best scares from the first film. They still work, just nowhere near as well as they did the first time. There’s a miasma of deja vu hanging over the
A miasma of deja vu hangs over the whole thing
whole thing, because the story of the Enfield poltergeist is so well known. Wan’s version changes things slightly, most notably by ramping up the stakes of the final showdown, but it’s not enough to make the fate of the Hodgsons feel fresh or interesting.
Not that that necessarily matters, because it’s the Warrens we’re really supposed to care about here, not their poor tormented clients. Patrick Wilson has worked with Wan on four horror films to date, and it’s clear why he keeps coming back: he gets all the big action scenes, as well as the best jokes and juiciest emotional moments. Farmiga, too, gives it all she’s got, switching gears effortlessly from adoring wife to terrified mother to kickass demon hunter. The two of them make a convincing couple, and their relationship – a genuinely loving partnership of equals – makes for a nice contrast with all the hell that’s breaking loose around them.
That sweetness does occasionally tip over into schmaltziness, unfortunately, and there are a couple of moments that are more cringeworthy than heartwarming. At its best, The
Conjuring 2 manages to be both scary and sweet; at its worst, well, it feels kind of tired. Though all of the same ingredients that made up the first film can be found here, they’re definitely starting to taste a little bit stale. James Wan’s unerring instinct for scares means there’ll be no shortage of screams at the cinema, but after this outing, will anyone really be screaming for more? Maybe this ought to be the last time anyone tries to dust off the Warrens’ casebook.
Composer Joseph Bishara appears briefly as a demon. He also played the demon in Insidious and the witch in The Conjuring.
Every time she turned her back, another cross appeared.
“So if you just sign here, we can start your PPI claim.”