The year is 1977. The Warrens have taken an extended break from hands-on investigations of paranormal incidents. However, a case demanding their attention surfaces in Enfield, England.
A single mother and her four children begin experiencing bizarre and terrifying occurrences in the family home. The youngest child, Janet, is exhibiting signs of possession.
The Warrens travel to England and are soon deeply ensconced in the case. Before long, the demon turns its attention to them.
Love Will Keep Us Together
At the heart of The Conjuring franchise is a love story. It is about a devout married couple who have dedicated their lives to exploring and, when necessary, confronting the dark elements of the paranormal.
For viewers to care about the characters they must buy into that relationship. The films simply do not work without the chemistry that exists between Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson. There is a warmth and intimacy in the script and on the screen that separates the Conjuring films from the litany of other generic horror pablum cranked out by Hollywood every year.
The Warrens are happy and in love. This is never really in question. That type of depiction of a married couple is in itself a rarity in modern mainstream film.
Who’s Afraid of the Big, Bad Wolfe?
Perhaps the true star of The Conjuring 2 is 13-year old Madison Wolfe. She delivers a stunning performance as “Janet Hodgson,” the youngest daughter who is suffering from the burden of demonic possession.
It would not be unfair to compare her performance to that of Linda Blair’s in The Exorcist. She gracefully shifts between the sweet, demure innocence of a normal, happy, little girl to the simmering rage of an otherworldly monster. She displays a sense of wide-eyed wonder that makes her both sympathetic and terrifying depending on the scene.
If the chemistry of Farmiga and Wilson is key to the overall success of the franchise, the success of this film is based on Wolfe’s performance. That is a lot of weight to place on the shoulders of one so young, but she delivers in spades.
Prior to The Conjuring 2, Wolfe had a recurring role in the first season of True Detective. She has also had roles in Trumbo, Joy, and Keanu. If she continues to work hard and keep her head on straight, I don’t see why this talented young lady won’t grow into a formidable actress.
The Times They Are A Changin’
Early in the picture, Lorraine Warren has a vision of her husband’s death. He is impaled by the sharp stump of a tree. As the film reaches its climax, this scenario materializes. Ed Warren is hanging from a window clutching Janet Hodgson who he was attempting to save from falling. Lorraine rushes to the rescue of the two, saving them by pulling them into the house.
Think about that for a second. Lorraine saves her husband. It’s been a long time coming but the film industry is slowly blinking its eyes in the bright daylight of the 21st Century. In the last six months, pictures like Star Wars: The Force Awakens and The Witch have presented a sleek, modern female protagonist with no strings attached. How exciting is that?
If I’m going to register a complaint about the film, it’s the soundtrack.
Early in the movie as the setting shifts from the United States to England, The Clash’s “London Calling” accompanies the requisite montage of British life. It is trite, but everyone gets one free pass.
Shortly thereafter, as the Hodgson family and other children are shown leaving school and waiting for rides, The Hollies’ “Bus Stop” is playing.
The topper, though, was at the end of the film. The haggard but triumphant Warrens are back home. A needle is shown dropping on a spinning album. Just as the line “Take my hand” from Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love” plays, we cut to a close-up of the two literally taking each other’s hands.
I actually laughed out loud at that point.
The film clicks in nearly every other facet, so I don’t understand why director James Wan chose to be so clumsy and on the nose with this.
Does it damage the film at all? No, not really. Does feel noticeably awkward? Absolutely.
I was concerned going into this picture. Personally, I am fatigued with the glut of superhero films dropped in the last few years. I have enjoyed Ant-Man and Deadpool, but that is despite my overall feelings about the genre.
Additionally, most high-profile sequels for at least the last decade have only proven to be, at best, disappointing.
That being said, The Conjuring 2 was set to be my official kick-off to the Summer Blockbuster Season. In my mind, it had a lot going against it.
I’ll be damned if James Wan didn’t prove my concerns for naught.
The picture has the same effusiveness and charm as the original, while still delivering the fright. It is familiar enough without feeling like a paint by numbers retread of the original.
Though I would have to go back and re-watch the first to confirm, The Conjuring 2 feels as if it is built on more jump scares than its predecessor. Though clocking in at a solid 2 hr. 14 min. the pacing keeps it airy and digestible throughout. It doesn’t ever get heavy or lag.
The Conjuring 2 is a fun movie and a great sequel. It breaks the tension when necessary, is permeated with a warmth not found in many horror pictures, and, most of all, is loaded with scares.
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