Movie Review: The Conjuring 2
Supposedly true horror story has some old school scares but not much new
Directed by James Wan
With Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Frances O'Connor, Madison Wolfe, Simon McBurney, Franka Potente
Slamming doors, self-propelled chairs, toys that suddenly turn themselves on — the old bag of cinematic haunted-house tricks is opened up for The Conjuring 2, a supposedly true story set in England in the 1977.
Two paranormal experts, Ed Warren (played by Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Wilson (Vera Farmiga) are facing media skepticism over their investigation of the famous Amityville Horror case. Yet another version of the Amityville story is shown in the first few minutes of the film, before the new story begins in earnest.
The Warrens were a real couple that led a paranormal investigation group, and they appeared (played by the same actors) in the 2013 film The Conjuring, which was a huge box office hit. That film dealt with possession and a witch's curse in Rhode Island.
Lorraine is shaken up by her recent visions, and wants some time away from ghostbusting, but the couple quickly finds themselves off in London investigating the famed Enfield Poltergiest, an actual case that was a big story in British tabloids in 1977–79. Many people to this day claim the case was genuine. Others say it was a series of crude tricks.
The film clearly sides with the idea that the haunting was true, but at least includes a few skeptics pointing out that despite the extensive investigation there was little solid proof, and there was actually some evidence that it was faked by attention-seeking girls.
The action takes place at a council house, a type of low-income housing, where the Hodgson family lives: a single mother and her children. The house is filled with spooky looking toys, has a weird tent in the middle of a hall and a bizarre flooded basement with a leaky pipe that just keeps gushing.
The mother, Peggy Hodgson (Frances O'Connor), seems to think nothing is odd about doing laundry in an electric washing machine suspended on some wooden boards above the stagnant water.
The rundown and untidy house itself creates a constant state of fear. Every shot of a door or window suggests that something will pop out. Any unoccupied chair looks as if it will bolt across the floor. The weird tent is never taken down, and always seems to be harboring some evil.
Police called to the house even reported seeing a chair move on its own, making this one of the few actual cases with police corroboration (although trickery couldn't be ruled out).
That would have been fine, but the filmmakers go a bit further and introduce a demonic nun that is supposed to link the British haunting to visions that Lorraine Warren was already having in the US. The nun provides some creepy scares, but she seems forced into the plot. She doesn't fit in with the rest of the happenings.
A few of the scary effects are unconvincingly created with CGI, and they detract from the others by reminding viewers that all of the goings on are cinematic fakery. The scariest parts of the film are when things can't be seen.
Director James Wan and his co-writers might have done better to stick closer to the alleged real story, and showed more of the conflict between the people who claimed the haunting was true and those who saw it as a series of tricks by publicity seekers hoping to somehow cash in on the events.
Aside from the Warrens, there are other actual paranormal investigators such as Maurice Grosse (Simon McBurney), who tries to film and tape the girl at the center of all the happenings.
All of the pro-ghost investigators are depicted with a bit of sympathy, as are the young girls at the center of the incidents. The audience wants to believe them, even if some evidence points the other way.
The little bit of insight into the 1970s methods used by the paranormal examiners sets the film apart a bit from many similar haunted house films. There is a documentary feeling to these parts, and it could have been expanded.
The Conjuring 2 is a good horror film, with a lot of atmosphere and a few genuine scares, but it could have been better if it stuck closer to the allegedly true story that it claims to depict and made room for a little more ambiguity.
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