The amount you actually enjoy The Conjuring 2 will be proportionate to how wimpy you are in horror movies. The wimpier you are, the less you’ll like it. Of particular importance however is the difference here between liking a horror movie and finding one effective, because in The Conjuring 2, James Wan has returned to a genre in which he’s a modern master.
It’s interesting that he and filmmaking partner Leigh Whannell kick started the subgenre that came to be called ‘torture porn’ with the Saw series. The movement quickly grew old as each film tried to one up the last by sequences that became offensive in their exploitative cruelty and what makes Wan’s involvement interesting is because like it’s predecessor, The Conjuring 2 is a very pure, old-style horror movie.
It’s not concerned with blood, guts or even simply making you jump in your seat for the hell of it. It sets out to scare you with nerve-sawing tension and does just that. If you are indeed a bit wimpy, expect to watch about 30-40 percent of it through your fingers.
Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) are feeling the effects of their lifetime of demonic exorcism. Lorraine is seeing visions of a chalk-faced, yellow-eyed figure in an old style nun’s habit who has a nasty habit of showing up in mirrors, visions and even to the Warrens’ young daughter.
Across the world and inspired by a true case that’s been put on film before (most recently in the BBC mini-series The Enfield Haunting), a suburban house in blue collar North London has become gripped by a paranormal entity, seemingly centred on 11 year old Janet (Madison Wolfe).
Like in the real case, furniture moves around by itself and Janet seems to become possessed by the deceased former inhabitant of the Hodgson home, an old man who died there named Bill, speaking malevolently in his rakish, cockney voice and telling them all he’s not going anywhere.
The disturbances go from spine tingling to armrest-shredding, and when Ed and Lorraine are called to London to help they uncover a deeper, more dangerous supernatural force pulling the strings.
It’s a good hour before the Warrens arrive at the Enfield home – until then we move between the embattled Hodgson family and the entity stalking Lorraine, making her believe it’s time they find a new line of work before one of them gets killed. But they can’t resist a family in need, so the fight is on.
Part of Wan’s skill as a director – apart from the gloomy, shadowed mood of his locations that’s perfect for a scary movie – is his use of everyday objects as instruments of terror. As a toy fire engine rolls across a floor into a child’s makeshift tent you’re reminded of the way a row of letterboxes, a monkey with cymbals and a kids’ record player signalled the presence of something incredible in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
Apart from a couple of sequences of the demon taunting Lorraine’s visions, there’s little obvious CGI, most of the props and even the ghostly entities wrangled on set with the actors. One example is a well done sequence (which you’ve seen in the trailer) of a room full of crucifixes turning upside down as Janet slowly watches their progress in terror. There’s a beat when the camera stops and a ghostly figure bursts out of the shadow in the corner of the room, lunging for her.
A TV standing on an angle playing a choir singing Christmas carols, a child pointing with wide, fearful eyes and pale light shone on a young girl’s face to make her look like a ghoul as she smiles evilly are just some of the things used to make you squirm, and Wan might be among the best in the business right now at using such lo-fi techniques to scare you.
It’s like a well-designed roller coaster ride – there’s no real depth or subtext, it’s just good clean and very scary fun (unless you’re a wimp, in which case it’s a thoroughly horrible experien