Sequelitis. Sequelitis is a condition that is propagated by white-collar execs when there’s a convergence of commercial success and creative maladroitness. Entertainment’s ground zero is Hollywood. Symptoms include delusions (“This is what people want, I’m sure of it.” – Unknown witness at greenlighting of Caddyshack II) and inaccurately predicting audience viewing tendencies. Without self-realization we have been inundated with a sequel-heavy summer – this is nothing new – but this year’s crop has been disappointing to say the least. Now comes The Conjuring 2, a follow-up to the successful 2013 horror release. Timed as counter-programming in a land of sequels and failed franchise starters, here was a horror movie in the heat of summer that offered more chills than an air conditioned theater.
Three years later and we have a sequel due to The Conjuring‘s success. The scary thing is that it isn’t just scary, it’s scary good. A rarity when talking horror.
The return of Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) on screen is like visiting an aunt and uncle you haven’t seen in many years. They are nice and easy going, and would probably be spending their days playing bridge if it weren’t for their investigations into the paranormal. That’s right. The Warrens are a couple of OGs. Original ghostbusters.
Six years removed from the Warrens’ successful removal of a witch that haunted the Harrisville, Rhode Island home of the Perron family we open with the husband and wife tackling their most famous case, the house in Amityville. The infamous “Amityville Horror” has been told in book form (1977) and was followed by a film (in 1979 and 2005). The Conjuring 2 could have easily capitalized on the case’s notoriety and built a sequel around that. Instead, Lorraine’s attempt to exorcise the house is a prelude to set up a case they would investigate years later. A case that would take them to Enfield, North London to investigate a supposed poltergeist.
Branded with a “Based on a True Story” tag, the sequel carries more than a grain of skepticism. But under James Wan’s skillful direction, what’s real and what isn’t does not impede on the enjoyment factor. Having spawned two horror franchises already (Saw and Insidious) Wan was already an old pro at crafting scares and being rewarded with audience jolts and shielded eyes when things get extreme. The Conjuring and now sequel is Wan at his best. He’s not simply producing high-art shlock for the sake of. Wan’s methods are ostensibly old-fashioned in how he employs ghost story tropes.
The haunting of the Hodgsons residence in Enfield begins small. Door knocks. Pipes rattling. A toy firetruck, alit and making noise, rolling across floorboards on its own. Then the spirit goes after the daughter Janet (Madison Wolfe). Local police get called in about the bump-in-the-night disturbances and witness firsthand but their wooden truncheons are no match for an apparition. The Warrens then get a request by the Church to verify if the hauntings are real.
The events of Amityville have Lorraine mulling over her profession as a paranormal investigator; she fears the continued investigations will leave to a grave demise. A spat on a talk show about that famed case, where Ed takes offense to a fellow doctor accusing him of being a fraud, also calls their methods into question. This bit of coloring helps add a layer to the story that would otherwise go unacknowledged. During the course of the investigation there is a third party skeptic present making her own case against Janet, believing the poltergeist is Janet rebelling – a manifestation of growing up in a single family household with a divorced mother and other siblings.
Whether you believe in demons or not, The Conjuring 2 does a great job at keeping the preposterous aboveboard thanks to Wilson and Farmiga. Both are so perfect in their roles as the Warrens that if they were door to door salesmen it would be hard to resist and not allow them entry. They ground the story in selling not only their beliefs in the supernatural but their love that seems to strengthen with each case.
From James Wan’s direction and Wilson and Farmiga as the Warrens to the period mid-’70s setting of North London, The Conjuring 2 is a clever and a satisfying sequel, shuffling the deck of tropes we’ve seen before to deliver a full house in need of ghost busting.
Director: James Wan Writer(s): Chad & Casey Hayes & James Wan and David Leslie Johnson Notable cast: Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Madison Wolfe, Frances O’Connor, Franka Potente
Travis Leamons is one of the Inside Pulse Originals and currently holds the position of Managing Editor at Inside Pulse Movies. He's told that the position is his until he's dead or if "The Boss" can find somebody better. I expect the best and I give the best. Here's the beer. Here's the entertainment. Now have fun. That's an order!