The Conjuring has led to quite the cinematic flow chart. The first movie gave us the Annabelle spin-off, which is in turn getting its own sequel in 2017. It also took us into The Conjuring 2, which is now apparently getting its own spin-off, which I’m sure will inevitably lead to more sequels. Then eventually we will get another proper Conjuring sequel, which could very well lead into an additional spin-off. Then I guess we’ll get into the team-ups, where the Warrens have to team up with Annabelle to take on a bigger threat. It’s heading towards being the horror equivalent of the Marvel universe and just like the Marvel movies, so long as they keep up this same level of quality (I maintain that Annabelle is shockingly watchable) I’ll continue watching.
This all brings us to The Conjuring 2, the further adventures of Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) Warren. It’s all apparently based on true cases that much of the internet seems to think weren’t at all true but I’m not going to get into all of that. I’ve never really understood why horror movies get hung up on the whole “based on true events” thing anyway, at least when the supernatural is involved. You can get some mileage out of a story that is absolutely based on a real occurrence, but saying “yo this movie is based around the idea that ghosts might be totally real maybe!” doesn’t really add anything to the experience.
This movie briefly shows us the Warrens’ investigation of the events that gave us The Amityville Horror, but the bulk of the story is focused on what is referred to as The Enfield Haunting. A family in London is dealing with asshole ghosts/demons who looks to have possessed one of the children. That’s no good so Ed and Lorraine fly over to put a stop to that nonsense, but also a ghost nun is happening and the whole situation is all kinds of bad.
Whether or not the real Warrens are scam artists or not, I have to say they make for compelling leads in these movies. It’s rare to have the two leads in your horror movie being a married middle aged couple who clearly still completely love each other. They aren’t recently separated or having relationship difficulties. They love and look out for each other and it makes them easier to root for as a result. How many horror movies would stop dead for a few minutes to have their lead actor perform an Elvis song in order to calm down children? Not too many, and it’s what makes this franchise stand out for me. The characters aren’t disposable, one dimensional pieces of nothing. Effort is made to flesh them out, even if it does result in a horror movie that starts to feel a little stretched out at 130 minutes.
The length definitely does work against this one. It’s very hard to main a high level of suspense for that long and by the end, I definitely started to feel as though I had experienced the full depth of The Conjuring 2’s bag of tricks. It doesn’t help either that the finale, for me at least, went out with a bit of a whimper. The central mystery around the main “villain” feels rushed and convenient, which could be irony since I just said the movie is too long.
Thankfully there are a lot of very effective sequences and moments spread out throughout those 130 minutes. The ghost nun, who isn’t in this movie nearly as much as the advertising would lead you to believe, steals every scene she’s in, partly because director James Wan expertly stages her sequences, and partly because nobody wants to deal with a ghost nun to begin with, let alone one that looks like this:
There’s also a creation called The Crooked Man, who taps into my fear of both things moving unnaturally, and big ole gangly ghosts. The Crooked Man, like the nun, only appears a couple of times but makes enough of an impression that I am genuinely surprised he isn’t being tapped for his own spin-off as well. Give it time.
I mentioned the Warrens making for a likable leading pair, but the Hodgson family is equally as effective here. I like that both this and the first movie don’t waste any time having the family not believe that one of them is having possession problems. Most movies would devote half their running time having a sibling or significant other who thinks the person claiming to be possessed/seeing things is losing it. Maybe they go to see a doctor about it. Maybe they yell “Why won’t you believe me?!” a bunch of times. That doesn’t happen here. The mom is on board almost immediately and has her daughter’s back. I like that. It’s a nice break from the horror norms.
James Wan continues to prove why he is one of the best modern horror directors that we got. He knows how to wring out the tension to an almost unbearable level and continuously stages sequences that are suspenseful and unique. I always appreciate the early moments where he highlights the various everyday objects (a rocking chair, a makeshift tent, a toy firetruck) that will eventually turn sinister.
The Conjuring 2 doesn’t hit the same heights as the first movie. It feels stretched out at 130 minutes which gives plenty of time to become immune to the scares, though it has an evil nun and a big gangly puppet dude. So this is probably a movie you need to see.