Directed by James Wan
Starring Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Frances O’Connor, Madison Wolfe, Lauren Esposito, Patrick McAuley, Benjamin Haigh, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Simon Delaney, Franka Potente, Simon McBurney
Film Review by Lorenzo Lombardi
Attempts to make horror franchises usually flop in terms of quality. Sequels of classic or modern greats such as Halloween and Paranormal Activity, despite being financially successful, fail to critically impress, unlike their predecessors. This might be because they are retreading the same solidified steps, or that the director had changed from the first. And although director James Wan made a lackluster attempt at his Insidious sequel, he recaptured the spirit of The Conjuring with its sequel, The Conjuring 2: The Enfield Case.
The Conjuring 2 follows paranormal investigators Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) yet again as they set out to help another family plagued by malevolent spirits. This time, the factually based haunting is set in the titular London Borough of Enfield, England.
70’s London adds a layer of splendour to the film. Everything from that era is nailed - from the fashion to the old-styled accents. What is also faithful is the case itself and the people involved. Actors were specifically hired to look like their real life counterparts and most of the events from the case are virtually re-enacted from witness descriptions. Even the haunted house and its properties look the same, which makes for a lot of believability for those who are familiar with the story.
By focusing on a case outside the US, the film differentiates itself from the first straight away. However, as is the curse of the horror sequel as previously mentioned, the film retreads many stylistic titbits of Wan’s earlier works. One example of this is when a demon points ominously to the desired victim - the same motif used in Insidious. The Conjuring 2’s antagonist also looks strikingly similar to ‘The Bride in Black’ in Insidious, but other than that, Wan uses his one-of-a-kind horror filmmaking skill to craft something that stands out in his filmography.
The tension in the second outing is on par with the original. Wan uses audiences’ expectation and paranoia to carefully execute effective scares. There are moments that build to nothing, in the beginning, playing on fears of the dark and of unusual sounds with fantastic lighting. As the events occur, they become increasingly more violent and scarier. Sometimes, though, the film becomes zany and not as believable as the first. Wan once stated that he prefers to leave things to the audience’s imagination, but more is revealed in this film. I also have a problem with the amount of CGI as practical effects look more believable.
Wan’s experience with The Fast & Furious franchise carries its silver linings here in the form of more energetic cinematography (solidly taken care of by Don Burgess). Camera movements are superb and invigorating, with the tracking shots being a highlight throughout the director’s career. He includes them better than ever before, leaving viewers on the edge of their seats as we follow our protagonists through to whatever lies ahead. Joseph Bishara once again helms the score - the scariest aspect of his films. Percussions, strings, and haunting choirs are used to punctuate The Conjuring 2’s disturbing imagery to maximum shock and discomfort. I do not know if I would be scared at all if this unbearably frightening score was not included.
Farmiga is the star of the show here and Wilson holds his own too. I am glad the Warrens continue to develop, as they are becoming even more empathetic and compelling this time around. Most importantly, they actually seem quite vulnerable. In the finale, you feel like anything could happen to these characters, which I personally found exciting.
While The Conjuring 2 cannot compete with its predecessor’s subtlety and innovation, it serves as the cherry on top to James Wan’s title: this generation’s most consistent horror director. See it for some of the best thrills of the year
More Film Reviews this way, if you please.