Se­quel to haunted-house thriller racks the nerves

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - Showtime - South Broward - - MOVIES - By Michael Phillips

Noth­ing else in “The Con­jur­ing 2” is as ter­ri­fy­ing as the 1977-era flo­ral wall­pa­per lin­ing the hall­ways of its dimly lit and plainly haunted North Lon­don flat, not to men­tion the fear­some edge on Pa­trick Wil­son’s side­burns. But de­spite be­ing sad­dled with 20 min­utes it doesn’t need, the movie is a con­sis­tently nerve-wrack­ing se­quel to the even bet­ter 2013 haunted-house thriller di­rected by James Wan (“Saw,” “In­sid­i­ous”). He is a man who knows how to tee up a jump-scare.

The first “Con­jur­ing” in­tro­duced fic­tion­al­ized ver­sions of the real-life para­nor­mal in­ves­ti­ga­tors Lor­raine and Ed War­ren, played by Vera Farmiga and the afore­men­tioned Wil­son. The set­ting was a ru­ral Rhode Is­land farm­house in 1971, where the ghost of a long-dead witch made life dif­fi­cult for the cur­rent res­i­dents.

“The Con­jur­ing 2” catches up with the ghost chasers six years later. Hot off a no­to­ri­ous case in Ami­tyville, N.Y., the War­rens travel to Lon­don at the Catholic Church’s be­hest to see if there’s any­thing to the ru­mor of the al­ready-in­fa­mous En­field poltergeist. Punk rock’s on the rise, Mar­garet Thatcher’s on the telly and the work­ing-class in­te­ri­ors are dec­o­rated in what might be called Brack­ish Do­mes­tic Hell.

At first the ex­hausted but lov­ing mother of four, Peggy Hodg­son (Frances O’Con­nor), has no ra­tio­nal rea­son to be­lieve her daugh­ter Janet (Madi­son Wolfe) when she re­ports strange move­ments and ap­pari­tions in her bed­room. Then the ev­i­dence be­comes dif­fi­cult to ig­nore, and the other chil- MPAA rat­ing: R (for ter­ror and hor­ror vi­o­lence) Run­ning time: 2:14 Opens: Thurs­day evening dren, not to men­tion a cou­ple of lo­cal po­lice of­fi­cers, see for them­selves: chairs scoot­ing across a kitchen floor; a back­yard swing swing­ing on its own; and more de­mon­i­cally, the specter of the house’s for­mer ten­ant (Bob Adrian), who died in the ratty old rock­ing chair in the liv­ing room cor­ner. With sto­ries like this, the phrases “liv­ing room” and “dy­ing room” are more or less in­ter­change­able.

There are other spooks and sources of ter­ror, of course. Long be­fore com­ing to Lon­don, Ed puts brush to can­vas and paints a vi­sion of a de­mon nun, who later be­comes man­i­fest in var­i­ous forms (the best im­age: chalky-white de­mon fin­gers reach­ing out from behind the framed paint­ing). Billy Hodg­son’s fa­vorite toy, a spin­ning “Crooked Man” zoetrope flash­ing im­ages of a spindly legged creep, leaps off the tiny carousel wall and comes to life. The En­field haunt­ing be­comes a wrestling match be­tween the skep­tics (Franka Po- tente of “Run Lola Run” plays para­psy­chol­o­gist Anita Gre­gory) and the be­liev­ers (Si­mon McBur­ney, look­ing like In­spec­tor Doppler from “Sleuth,” as para­nor­mal ex­pert Mau­rice Grosse).

The script by Chad Hayes, Carey W. Hayes, David Les­lie John­son and di­rec­tor Wan packs a lot onto “The Con­jur­ing 2.” It’s plainly too long, and the story rhythm is some­what odd, tak­ing time out for hu­man­iz­ing pas­sages such as Wil­son’s Ed ser­e­nad­ing the Hodg­son clan with “Can’t Help Fall­ing in Love” on gui­tar and vo­cals. Wan’s film is, at heart, an un­cyn­i­cal em­brace of fam­ily val­ues. The mar­riage at the story’s cen­ter is a hardy and lov­ing one. As with the first “Con­jur­ing,” the hor­ror, R rat­ing not­with­stand­ing, goes easy on the gore. De­spite all the chil­dren in all that peril, Wan is a hu­mane sort of sadist. His lat­est offers lit­tle that’s new, but the movie’s fi­nesse is some­thing even those who aren’t fans of hor­ror can ap­pre­ci­ate. Michael Phillips is a Tri­bune News­pa­pers critic.

NEW LINE CIN­EMA

Vera Farmiga and Pa­trick Wil­son reprise their roles as para­nor­mal in­ves­ti­ga­tors in “The Con­jur­ing 2.”

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