An Amer­i­can Ex­or­cist In Lon­don

SFX - - Contents - Sarah Dobbs

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.”

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