With The Conjuring 2 we return to the 1970s and the “real-life” paranormal investigations of Ed and Lorraine Warren. This time our haunted heroes find themselves in the London Borough of Enfield, attempting to fight off the evil spirit residing in the Hodgson family’s home and the demonic possession of young Janet Hodgson (played by Madison Wolfe.)
I really liked the first (2013) movie in this series, and I applauded its use of old school scare tactics over bloody gore and torture. But this latest effort (directed again by the original’s James Wan, and written together with Carey & Chad Hayes), doesn’t hold up to The Conjuring’s high standard.
The less-is-more approach that usually works best in scary films, and which was utilized so successfully in the first movie, also makes for the best and most nerve-racking bits in this film. Unfortunately, early on and repeatedly throughout the movie, Wan takes the easy way out by showing us the monsters and taking us out and away from a narrative that is allegedly based on facts.
It’s public knowledge at this point that the supposed “true” events in this film were largely embellished or discarded completely. (You can see the blow-by-blow, fact v fiction run down in this comprehensive article by HistoryVsHollywood.com.) It’s both a sham and a shame, because in this case I think the truth really would have made the better film.
The movie begins with the Warrens (played again by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) investigating the infamous Amityville Horror haunting, which initially made me think that I was in the wrong movie. During the séance, while Lorraine is in a psychic trance, a demonic nun named Valak threatens to destroy the meddling couple; and so they swear off of any further involvement with the supernatural.
Meanwhile the Hodgsons in England are having a heck of a time, with daughter, Janet, experiencing weird sleepwalking episodes and the entire family witnessing moving objects in their house. When the young girl begins speaking in the voice of the deceased former tenant, Bill Wilkins, the church calls on the assistance of the Warrens, who reluctantly decide to help the terrified family.
Are the spooky events real, or just the elaborate plot of the mischievous kids? The film goes completely off the rails when it plays the Bee Gees’ “I Started a Joke” in answer to that question. One of the most ridiculous uses of pop music in a film – ever – and it turned the whole movie into a joke at that point.
The Conjuring 2 does have some creepy moments, but its continuous cop-outs, showing the evil nun and a “crooked man” (whom comes out of child’s makeshift tent), are never far behind the legitimate scares, and those creature appearances just made me roll my eyes.
I did like most of the humor that is weaved throughout the film (minus the Bee Gees), and I enjoyed the husband/wife relationship of the Warrens. I think there are still some good scary movies to be made utilizing fictionalized versions of these paranormal pioneers’ investigations, but this one isn’t going to help make that happen. Grade: 4/10
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Photos © 2016 Warner Bros. Entertainment