Do cranky old men scare you?
Oh horror sequels, how disappointing you are. Horror sequels, along with comedy sequels, are the hardest to pull off well due to the usual lack of new ideas, and tendency to repeat what was done in the original film, the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ mentality of filmmaking. Unfortunately, The Conjuring 2 is not immune to falling into these all too well known trappings, and delivers a familiar, formulaic horror sequel.
The Conjuring 2 continues the stories of Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) as they travel to London to investigate one of their most famous cases, the Enfield Poltergeist. The Hodgson family has been plagued by hauntings for months. At first Peggy (Frances Ann O’Connor), the matriarch of the Hodgsons, does not buy into her children’s ravings of ghosts. But it isn’t long until her daughter Janet (played quite spectacularly by Madison Wolfe) becomes seriously possessed, and Peggy enlists the help of the Warrens to save her family.
The best part of The Conjuring, the relationship between Ed and Lorraine Warren, is continued and further expanded upon in the second film. Too often in horror films are the characters simply vessels for the audience to be scared through, and thankfully The Conjuring franchise has been able to avoid this by providing us real characters with actual depth and motivations for the audience to get attached to. I found myself invested in the struggles of Ed and Lorraine, and the chemistry between Wilson and Farmiga is what sells it. Wilson continues to prove how underrated of an actor he is with his portrayal of Ed Warren, and Farmiga gives a solid performance as as the clairvoyant Loraine. There are some genuinely sweet moments between the two characters, and the film was smart to focus a lot of its attention on their relationship.
While The Conjuring 2 does have an over reliance on loud noises and other various jump scares to spook the audience, there are multiple moments that are genuinely creepy and uncomfortable, and often times you could cut the tension with a knife. Director James Wan is a certified horror veteran at this point, with The Conjuring, two Insidious films, and the original Saw all already under his belt. He continues to exhibit his talent with playing with dark and creepy moods and atmosphere in The Conjuring 2, as this film has that in spades. Wan knows when to leave the camera lingering just long enough to enact discomfort in the audience, and the rest of his camera work further proves his talent at directing effective horror.
If only the script was on par with Wan’s directing. A great deal of the dialogue in this film is pretty bad, and at times it felt like it treated its audience like they were stupid. Multiple times the film would come to a screeching halt in order greatly over explain things and deliver extremely clunky exposition. It felt supremely unnatural, and it happened so often that I inadvertently found myself rolling my eyes throughout the film. The audience is never allowed to figure out things for themselves, instead the writer opts to beat you over the head with the film’s twists and revelations, if you can even call them that.
What really sinks The Conjuring 2 however is its over familiarity, and inability to bring anything new to the table. While I wasn’t in love with the original film, it was a breath of fresh air in a time where found footage horror films like Paranormal Activity engulfed the market, so I was willing to forgive it for its reliance classic haunted house tropes. But The Conjuring 2 still indulges on those well accustomed tropes. On their own, doors slamming shut aren’t particularly scary, chairs and dressers flying aren’t particularly scary, and random objects moving on their own aren’t particularly scary. Yet featured here is such an abundance of these various horror cliches to the point that it almost felt lazy. I honestly found myself quite bored with the film at times, and it’s over two hours run-time sure didn’t do the film any favors. It had no need to be this long, and there is a lot of fat in the film that could have been cut.
This next thing is more of a personal nitpick, but it needs to be addressed(warning: light spoilers): The main ghost/demon/whatever is an old man who died in his chair, and continues his haunting from said chair. While there are some really awesome ghost designs in the film (namely the incredibly spooky Demon Nun and the delightfully creepy Crooked Man), the main ghost is literally just an old man in white make up. There’s nothing scary about a grumpy old man sitting in a char, if there was I’d be terrified of my grandparents. It’s because of this that so much of the horror in the first half of the film fell flat for me.Whenever he appeared on screen I caught myself giggling instead of being frightened.
All in all, The Conjuring 2 is simply okay. It isn’t bad, but it isn’t particularly good either. But in a time where we’ve recently gotten some amazing ventures into horror with films such as It Follows, The Babadook, and The Witch, the flaws and short comings of The Conjuring 2 become all the more apparent.