-Although intermittently scary, The Conjuring 2 becomes too much of a soap opera to keep the tension at peak level.
James Wan has had struggles recently in making his horror films actually about horror. Whether it be the very un-scary turns in the “Insidious” trilogy or now the marital strife in the quite boring second installment of the ‘Conjuring’ film series, taking horror films out of the careers of Ed and Lorraine Warren, infamous ghost investigators.
I really enjoyed the first Conjuring film. It had some very scary atmosphere, workable jump scares, and an overall sense of dread that built every-time it was night during the week or so that the film covered. That same sense of dread is largely absent here, yet the formula is the same. The films waits around with a boring daytime, “character development” sequence of scenes, and then decides to whip out the slammed doors, floor creaking, object manipulation, and overall “boo”rific tone once the lights go out. The sequel here does not work with the same fervor of its predecessor, and frankly, is just a horror throwaway with a handful of good scares.
This time, we pick up after an intro covering the Warren’s investigation into the Amityville incident that leaves Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) scarred after seeing a demonic nun that predicts Ed’s (Patrick Wilson) death. This entity sticks with Lorraine, who asks Ed to stop investigating these incidents with her, as she fears for his life.
At the same time, the ghost of a spooky old man is haunting a poor English family across the Atlantic. The single mother (Frances O’Connor) has reported that her daughter Janet (Madison Wolfe) may be experiencing some paranormal activity. There are three other kids, as well. When the Warrens go to investigate against Lorraine’s wishes, she must go back to her ability, thus making her susceptible to the nun demon that still haunts her.
The majority of the film stays away from this nun demon, who is the lone scary part of this film. There are a few scenes that really, really work with this nun, and if you see this film, the one in the office with the painting definitely takes the cake as scariest scene of the year so far. However, we never really grow to care about the family being troubled, and their old man demon is not remotely scary, but rather likes to give a few ghostly ‘boos’ and remote drops and car starts instead of really creating atmosphere. The first Conjuring kept the viewer helpless, prone to the dense, nasty atmosphere that kept the scares coming a mile a minute, and that does not happen with this film. The pacing is all wrong, sometimes throwing in un-scary daytime scenes that are supposed to be scary, and relying too much on the ‘possession is what is frightening’ idea that these film-makers seem to have.
Truthfully, I’m getting a bit tired of the “little girl is possessed by a vengeful spirit” plot. It really only serves to set up a few jump scares in the early run time, before it loses steam during whatever exorcism scene that concludes the movie. A random twist about the two demons possibly being related doesn’t really matter at all, and it comes from a very random, rushed, stupid discovery. (It’s also worth mentioning that the editing is made with some very odd choices of tempo, where certain speed up/slow down sequences are supposed to make the film seem dream-like, but in reality just make it look like its trying just a bit too hard.)
Wan has always had problem wrapping his films up, and the third act to this thing is even messier than the other two. I want to enjoy my horror films, keeping me on the edge of my seat, but its so rare to get one that actually works. That’s why getting both The Visit and It Follows last year was such a treat, because they both were effective in their own way.
By never learning to care for the family, the movie rests on the shoulders of Farmiga and the always-game-for-a-bad-horror-flick Wilson, as they try to incorporate marital drama into a demon/ghost horror film. Want one thing that we don’t need to see in between haunting sequences? A marital argument between two characters we know nothing about. If the film doesn’t scare me and wants to be within the horror genre, then it didn’t accomplish its job.
The Conjuring 2 (2016)
Director: James Wan (The Conjuring, Furious 7, Saw, Insidious I and II)
Starring: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Frances O’Connor, Madison Wolfe, and Simon McBurney
RT Score: 75%