As he did with The Conjuring, writer-director James Wan uses a supposed real-life poltergeist as the basis for The Conjuring 2: The sequel draws upon the infamous Enfield Poltergeist, which allegedly occurred in England in the late 1970s.
Wan has tapped into something interesting with this franchise. Two films in, it’s showing decent durability and originality.
It’s also pretty scary.
Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson return as the Warrens, real-life paranormal investigators known to have visited many legendary haunted spaces, including Amityville and Enfield. Wan, of course, blows up their involvement in each of these cases to offer a platform for fictional circumstances and scares. While not quite as good as The Conjuring, this sequel does its predecessor proud.
Amityville actually gets a little bit of attention in the film’s pre-opening-credits sequence, a creepy one that has Farmiga’s Warren possessing the body of killer Ronald DeFeo Jr. during a séance vision of him murdering his family. Farmiga is seen walking around with an invisible shotgun shooting people, and DeFeo is seen with the actual weapon in mirrors. Many have tried to make the Amityville Horror scary at the movies, but this is the first to actually accomplish the feat.
The film then crosses over to its main focus: an impoverished family in Enfield, England. Peggy (Frances O’Connor) is raising her children while broke—and their flat just happens to become haunted. Not only does it get haunted; daughter Janet (Madison Wolfe) becomes possessed by an old man who supposedly died in a living-room chair years before. He’s now causing problems because it’s his house, and he likes scaring kids.
One of the main reasons The Conjuring 2 works is the performance of Wolfe, who employs a flawless English accent to go with appropriately eerie facial expressions. She has a swing-set scene with Farmiga that makes the skin crawl. She’s great in every moment she spends on screen.
Knowing full well that his movie needed something beyond a little girl croaking like an old man, Wan includes a monstrous ghost that emerges from a toy in the house, and some sort of nun demon that has an uncanny resemblance to Marilyn Manson.
These two spooky entities provided a couple of jump scares that got this particular veteran of many jump-scare attempts a few inches out of his seat. I’ll say this for Wan: He’s the current King of the Jump Scare. He has impressive, impeccable timing at what has become a bit of a lost art among horror-film directors.
Farmiga and Wilson are decent once again as the Warrens, although the film keeps them on the backburner for much of the first half. O’Connor (the mother in Steven Spielberg’s A.I: Artificial Intelligence) is solid as the cranky mom.
Wan will not be pigeonholed as a horror director; he made 2015’s Furious 7 and is slated to enter the DC universe with Aquaman in 2018. When he gets everything working together, including an excellent soundtrack and camerawork, he’s an effective horror maestro. He’s made some stinkers (I still say the original Saw was crap, and Insidious: Chapter 2 was terrible), but he’s pretty consistent within the horror genre, especially with his ghost stories. Due to his busy schedule, a directorial return for the inevitable The Conjuring 3 seems unlikely for Wan.
I attended a packed screening for this movie, and it was met with a lot of screams and laughs—as well as a round of applause when it was over. My feelings weren’t nearly as enthusiastic, but I did enjoy it. It’s a good-enough summer-scare machine that will put a couple of jolts into you.
The Conjuring 2 is playing at theaters across the valley.