Friday, June 10, 2016

Movie Review #437: "The Conjuring 2" (2016)

Movie"The Conjuring 2"
Director: James Wan
Rating: R
Running Time: 2 hours, 14 minutes
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After investigating the Amityville haunting, Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) receive national notoriety. With that notoriety comes many skeptics who want to debunk much of their work. Now, a new haunting has taken place in Enfield, England, and the Warren's have been contacted by the church to test its authenticity. A little girl named Janet (Madison Wolfe) appears to have been possessed by some entity, and though the Warren's seem to believe her, there is also a skeptic there trying to prove it's all a hoax.

"The Conjuring 2" is James Wan's sequel to his massive 2013 hit "The Conjuring." This sequel explores another case investigated by demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren, again played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga. It briefly touches on the Amityville haunting which took place in 1976. As we all know, this is a very famous case that has been made into many movies, most famously 1979's "The Amityville Horror." The story briefly touches on how the Amityville haunting case affected Ed and Lorraine, as well as how it catapulted them into the public eye, before moving onto its primary focus: the Enfield Poltergeist.

In this case, a mother named Peggy, played by Frances O'Connor, and her children in Enfield, England are tormented when her daughter Janet, played by Madison Wolfe, becomes possessed by a relentless spirit. Character building starts early on as we get to meet and know each person within this large, poor family to learn of their dramas and mannerisms. The longer it goes on, the worse Janet's possession gets, and her mother, who is initially skeptical, slowly starts to believe Janet as she sees things like dressers flying across the room and many other terrible happenings. As the spirit continues to use Janet, we get a lot of the standard possession and haunted house affair. Objects move on their own, flying around at will, people float in the air, and there are a trove of demonic voices and unsettling images shown often. Wan, a master manipulator of light, plays with the darkness and the light on the faces of his characters and within the context of the haunting.

James Wan has done quite a few horror films, and they have unfortunately started to blend together in some ways. BigJ and I got a little bit of an "Insidious" vibe from "The Conjuring 2" as some of the elements have seemingly crossed over from that franchise. There is a moment early on where we felt like one of the characters was going into The Further and we wondered if we had walked into the wrong movie for a second. In fact, there are many other obvious homages to classic horror films at work here, such as throwbacks to the likes of "The Shining" as doors are chopped down with hatchets, and "The Exorcist" in its makeup work. The first "Conjuring" was fraught with tension and had a great tone and visuals throughout. Here, the tension comes and goes. BigJ even feels like the tone is a bit uneven, but I didn't really seem to notice, either that or it just didn't bother me as much. Part of this might be attributed to the aforementioned drama building of the Hodgson family, and part of this could be because of the focus on Ed and Lorraine Warren's relationship with one another. The plot also plays with a mystery angle wherein our characters must decipher if Janet is really being possessed or if it's all an elaborate hoax. We must say we do enjoy this different method of unraveling, though some audience members may see it as a distraction from the chills and thrills. Finally, the acting is solid all around. Farmiga and Wilson are well established within this series and are excellent as always. We are especially impressed with the acting of Madison Wolfe, who sells her possession quite well and was a treat to watch, as well as Frances O'Conner, a veteran actress who gives a great performance as a concerned, worried mother.

We like this movie, but not as much as we thought we would. Everyone, fans and critics alike, are singing the praises of "The Conjuring 2." Some aspects deserve to be praised. For one, no one can build and set a horror movie mood like James Wan. If you think we're wrong, go back and watch the original "Conjuring" with the all of the lights off and no cell phones in the room. While some might see his use of jumps scares there as hokey and expected, here, Wan sets you up for potential scares that sometimes never come at all. Wan knows what the audience is expecting and toys with his viewers, leading them into visual and auditory traps for the ultimate psych-out. This is a positive for those horror fans who hate the by-the-numbers formula of the genre, but it also might be a negative for people who hate being set up only to be let down. The imagery here is also excellent. There are multiple antagonists that feed and pray on those in the Enfield house. These frightening demons are breathtakingly terrifying. One of them is a nun, played by Bonnie Aarons, and MAN, talk about creeptastic! This entity appears throughout the film and is equally unnerving each time it appears in a scene. Though this spirit looks cool, the one we are particularly fond of is the Crooked Man, who many think is CGI, but isn't. The Crooked Man is played by an actor named Javier Botet, who has an inherited disorder called Marfan syndrome that gives him very unique build that allows him to play these horror types of characters. This character is the most effective to us, though we are willing to bet most moviegoers will not like it because of its animated quality and movement. We wanted to know and see more from The Crooked Man.

Fans of the original "Conjuring" will most likely love Wan's continuation of this series, and even we must admit this is a good film. While we both liked it, we didn't love it like we did with the original. We must give credit where credit is due, though, and director James Wan sure knows how to make a good horror film, even if we haven't always been thrilled with everything he's made and produced in the past. This is a technically well put together film with some genuine scares, but we never felt as gripped as we wanted to be. This is a must see for horror fans who are tired of the same old sub-par crap that gets shoveled out every year by lesser horror masters.

My Rating: 7/10
BigJ's Rating: 6.5/10
IMDB's Rating: ~8.4/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: ~73%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?
One year ago, we were watching: "The Day After Tomorrow"

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