Monday 13 June 2016

Film Review: The Conjuring 2

Set in 1977, The Conjuring 2 sees world-famous paranormal investigators Lorraine and Ed Warren travel across the pond to the dilapidated North London suburb of Enfield to uncover the secrets behind a string of spooky hauntings plaguing one particular family.  

I made a huge mistake, you guys. I thought I could do it; I thought I'd be okay. But I went too far this time. I thought The Conjuring 2 wouldn't get me - after all I've seen two other horror movies this year! Surely it couldn't be that bad or any scarier than those. I thought that at the respectable age of 23, I'd be sorted.

I was wrong. The Conjuring 2 isn't just scary; it's shit-your-pants, cover-your-eyes, bite-your-knuckles and ignore-your-popcorn scary.

I think I say this every time I review a horror movie, but we'll go there anyway - horror ain't my thing. It's a genre that I always approach trepidatiously, primarily because 80% of the genre is the same warmed-up shit as before. You often get one decent movie followed by a string of money-grabbing sequels that rapidly diminish in quality - we're looking at you, all the other Paranormal Activity movies.

Every now and again you get something special - The Babadook or It Follows spring to mind. Joining this crop is James Wan's The Conjuring; the film was an enormous hit in 2013, grossing over $300 million from a $20 million budget. A sequel was all but assured - and thankfully, Wan has delivered a follow-up that is just as good, if not better than, the first.

The Conjuring 2 is set in 1977 and it relocates to Enfield in North London; an impoverished working class family, the Hodgsons, live in a dilapidated terrace house that they discover is haunted by an evil spirit. Taking possession of the Hodgsons' youngest daughter Janet (Madison Wolfe), the spirit refuses to let the family live in peace, and the paranormal case soon draws the attention of renowned investigators Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) and Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson).

Much like the first film, The Conjuring 2 will give you serious Exorcist or Amityville Horror vibes. Wan doesn't shy away from drawing parallels to such films either; its interwoven into the DNA of the movie without feeling like a straight-up rip-off or dull homage. Instead, we're treated to an exceptionally scary and atmospheric thriller that doesn't waste time getting down to business.

The setting was a nice change of pace also; the recreation of 70's London feels different from recent horror movies whilst remaining instantly familiar. However, I am going to start a petition to remove 'London Calling' from all movies from now on; it's such an overused track and using it is kinda lazy at this point (plus, the song wasn't released until 1979, two years after the events of the movie - so there).

Farmiga and Wilson are both excellent; their warm marital relationship is so effective that it makes the horrors unfolding around them extra terrifying. We don't just fear for their lives; we fear for their relationship and their future. They're really well-written too - and likeable! Having not seen the first movie in a long time, I wasn't expecting such warmth and depth from the Warrens, but there it was.

My biggest issue with the film is its length; when all is said and done, the film is knocking on for nearly two and a half hours, which wouldn't in itself be much of a problem if the first hour didn't spin its wheels so much. I get that Wan is doing everything he can to build tension, but it's well over an hour before the Warrens actually cross the pond and arrive in Enfield to meet the Hodgsons.

Credit where credit is due, the opening 60 minutes is a non-stop nightmare as Wan strings together terrifying scene after terrifying scene - I just preferred the second half of the movie where Lorraine and Ed started investigating the case and the plot actually got going.

The excellent craftsmanship is what really sets this movie apart; intelligent camerawork, editing, sound design and cinematography all intertwine to make this a horror movie experience to remember (and savour).

You know how I know? The morning after I saw The Conjuring 2, I'd agreed to drop my parents-in-law at the airport. They're flying to Sydney and then on to Japan. But their flight left at the crack of dawn, which meant waking up in the early hours of the morning. In the dark.

As soon as I stepped out of the safety of my bedroom and looked up at the darkened bathroom mirror and shadowy hallway corners, I knew I wouldn't shake the imagery Wan had crafted for a long, long time. Every tiny shadow lurking in the hallway was a ghoul waiting to eat my face; every minute movement across the wall was a demon about to haunt my dreams. Deep breaths Rhys, it isn't real...

I think that's my horror quota fulfilled for a while, don't you?

The Verdict: 8.5/10

Terrific performances and sublime filmmaking technique work in tandem to create The Conjuring 2, the best (and scariest) horror movie I've seen in a long time - it isn't just a great sequel, it's a great movie, period. Wan is a peerless master of modern horror.

The Conjuring 2 is in cinemas across Australia now


  1. Great review.

    I really hope James Wan returns again next time around.

    - Zach

    1. If he isn't too tied up with Aquaman. If he doesn't return then it'll lose something that's for sure.



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