Release date: 13th June 2016/Watch the trailer here
The Conjuring 2 is the latest offering from modern day horror master, James Wan (Saw, Insidious, The Conjuring). 2013’s The Conjuring first introduced us to the real-life paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorraine Warren. As far as recent horror films go, The Conjuring is widely acknowledged to be one of the better ones: its success led to the spin-off Annabelle, based on the Warren’s case files, but crucially lacking the Warrens themselves (played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga).
Thankfully, Wilson and Farmiga (as well as Wan in the director’s chair) return for The Conjuring 2, which is inspired by the infamous Enfield case. The story of the Enfield haunting was recently told in a TV mini-series starring Timothy Spall, but The Conjuring 2 chooses to interweave the paranormal goings-on in Enfield, London, with the lives of Ed and Lorraine Warren, who investigated the case in real life.
The events that occurred in the Hodgson household in Enfield in the late 1970s are not only fascinating, but also widely believed to be a hoax. Poltergeist activity began to occur in the home occupied by single mother Peggy (Frances O’Connor) and her four young children, but following a series of disturbing possessions of youngest daughter, Janet (Madison Wolfe), the church enlisted the help of experienced paranormal investigators. Even if you’ve never heard of the Warrens, you’ve undoubtedly heard of some of their more famous cases – The Conjuring 2 even begins with a brief look at their investigation into the haunting in Amityville to set the scene for the two hours that are to follow.
However, it is this excessive runtime – coming in at 134 minutes – that is one of The Conjuring 2‘s only downfalls, although the reasoning behind it is admirable. A lot of time – arguably too much – is spent introducing us to the Hodgson family and the Warrens: at least an hour has passed before the Warrens even become involved in the Enfield case. Although the runtime succeeds in developing the characters far better than your average horror film while simultaneously ramping up the scares, it could have done with having at least thirty minutes shaved off it.
Even so, The Conjuring 2 is everything that you’d expect from a James Wan horror – every bit as sleek and stylish as it is terrifying. There’s no shortage of jump scares, whether they come from the malevolent spirit of the elderly man that’s haunting the Hodgson household, or the horrific figure of a gaunt, shadowy nun that haunts Lorraine in a series of visions throughout the film. It’s nothing that we haven’t seen before, as a checklist of horror movie tropes are routinely ticked off as the story progresses, but they’re pulled off successfully enough for it to not particularly matter.
However, the real downfall of The Conjuring 2 comes from the tired trope that so many horror films fall victim to: the ending. The climax sees the horror leap from a sense of uneasy dread to full-on hysteria, and by this point, everything seems so silly that nothing’s all that scary anymore. Perhaps it’s just personal opinion, but I always find the ghosts and demons of horror films so much more threatening when we can’t see them, as opposed to glowing red eyes and bared fangs.
As is to be expected, The Conjuring 2 never quite manages to live up to its predecessor – or The Enfield Haunting mini-series, for that matter – but its relentless, slow burn horror manages to be consistently unsettling enough to please any fan of the genre. What truly sets The Conjuring 2 apart from its fellow horror films is the well-written characters of Ed and Lorraine Warren, giving the audience enough of an emotional connection to them to care whether they live or die by the time the finale rolls around. The real credit, however, lies with Wan: the beautiful camerawork, the attention to detail and of course, the effective scares. Whether or not you enjoy the story that The Conjuring 2 has to tell, one thing is for certain: you will jump out of your seat.