THE CONJURING 2: SURE TO MAKE YOU SCREAM!!
The screenplay, credited to Carey Hayes & Chad Hayes & James Wan and David Leslie Johnson, is very smart about the way it opens with a séance in the Amityville house. Amityville is where the Warrens made their reputations as paranormal investigators, so it makes sense to eventually tell that story, but it’s also been made and re-made and told a dozen different ways. Instead of making the mistake of dedicating an entire film to it, they use it to set several story threads into motion and also to show how the Warrens were constantly challenged during TV appearances and called phonies.
Janet (Madison Wolfe) is the first Hodgson to be affected by the haunting in their home, and because she shares a room with Margaret (Lauren Esposito), both girls quickly are upset by the events. By the time Billy (Benjamin Haigh) and Johnny (Patrick McAuley) are also involved, there’s no way Peggy can deny that her children are being affected by something or someone. Wan takes his time with the family and the details of the haunting, and by the time he brings Ed and Lorraine back, it’s possible some audiences will have forgotten they’re actually in the film. Lorraine’s worried because she’s had visions of Ed’s death, and she is reluctant to take on any new cases at all. She’s content hiding, and there’s a great moment in the middle of the film where she sees a crazy Demon Nun (Bonnie Aarons) in her home, a spirit that seems to be chasing them even in their own home. Ed can’t just hide, though. He believes that what they do is a calling, and when they see the Hodgson family in trouble, they can’t just turn their backs on them.
Things build from incident to incident, and when they do erupt in over-the-top fashion, it feels like Wan has taken his time and earned it. The entire cast is terrific together, and Madison Wolfe has to carry quite a bit of the film on her shoulders. She’s playing 11-year-old Janet, and she has to do some very adult things and play some very tricky scenes. Frances O’Connor is a great choice for Peggy, and she plays the reality of just how worn thin Peggy is even before the haunting begins.
The Conjuring 2’s story, and James Wan has an affinity for good actors, who have to navigate this supernatural world and make it believable. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga give honest, earnest performances, and bring the audience into these strange proceedings with real grace and empathy. They are our guides through the mystery and the terror, and both Wilson and Farmiga are strong, compassionate, and often very funny. This is a couple who we would follow into the darkness, and frankly, these movies wouldn’t work without them.
With the bigger scale, The Conjuring 2 loses a little of the intimacy of the first, but the scares stay constant and terrifying. In the context of the film, these terrors feel frighteningly real, and audiences shouldn’t get hung up on the accuracy and should just let the film work its magic. You’re sitting down at a campfire, listening to a story and hoping to be scared. That’s what we want from movies like this, and The Conjuring 2 delivers. The Conjuring 2 is a very satisfying and scary sequel, and this is a franchise that should continue to terrify us for a long time to come.
With a rich supporting cast, a smart script, and an ensemble that is put through their paces in some intense physical scenes, The Conjuring 2 is that rare horror sequel that stands toe to toe with the original, possibly even improving on it, and I suspect this will not be the last we see of the Warrens at work.