I was not a huge fan of 2013’s The Conjuring, though I recognized it was a first-class horror effort. The film recounted the efforts of real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren and their attempt to solve the famous Harrisville haunting in Rhode Island (their reports inspired The Amityville Horror book and subsequent films). Effectively directed by James Wan, Conjuring still had the feeling of a bit of deja vu in the well-worn genre for me. The movie was a smash, one of the most successful in the genre ever, box office-wise, with more than $300 million worldwide. But…
So, as I say in my video review above, I was really pleasantly surprised, shocked actually, to see how much I liked — and admired — what Wan has been able to do in the inevitable sequel. The Conjuring 2 takes the Warrens to Endfield, just north of London, to try to solve another daunting case of paranormal activity. This is a subject the movies have tackled over and over lately, but no one has come close to matching what William Friedkin and screenwriter William Peter Blatty achieved with 1973’s ultimate classic The Exorcist. Wan comes closest this time, the best since The Exorcist. The story follows a family terrorized by ghostly apparitions and strange goings-on in their home, especially the youngest girl Janet Hodgson (Madison Wolfe), who seemingly is possessed. The real Janet was a consultant on the film. In the mid-1970s, the case was controversial because many felt it was a hoax perpetrated by the young girl whose mother, Peggy (Frances O’Connor ), at first was a non-believer — until she wasn’t.
The fact that The Conjuring 2 is based on fact helps lift the film to a different level, but I think the English setting and thesps give this go-round a little more gravitas. It also helps to have Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga returning in the roles of the Warrens. Lorraine Warren was very reluctant to get involved after the trauma of Harrisville and, at least in this film version, has visions of very bad vibes should they travel to England to help out here. But Ed believes that is their mission, even if doubts surface that what is happening is real. Of course, when all hell breaks loose, it’s hard to believe it could be simply the work of this one young child.
My thoughts in all these movies is why doesn’t this family just move? I sure as hell would. But then you wouldn’t have much of a movie, and Wan drags this one out to a pulse-pounding 134 minutes — quite long for the genre, but for me every minute was worth it. Wan knows the tricks of this trade (heightened sound effects, moving furniture, dark corners) but somehow miraculously he really puts a fresh spin on it all here. It’s riveting stuff, even if in a familiar cinematic environment. Maybe it’s the British accents, but something made this cynic jump out of his seat and talk back to the screen more than once, so mission accomplished.
Credit also should go to the screenwriters, Chad Hayes & Carey W. Hayes & Wan and David Leslie Johnson, for making what seems so incredible so credible. O’Connor is excellent as the beleaguered mom, with Wolfe easily the standout among her kids who include Lauren Esposito, Patrick McAuley and Benjamin Haigh. Wan produced again with his original Conjuring colleagues Peter Safran and Rob Cowan. It is one hell of a movie.
Do you plan to see The Conjuring 2? Let us know what you think.