The Conjuring 2
To make an event movie out of your basic horror film is no easy feat — a genre for everyone it ain’t — so kudos to The Conjuring and its sequel for pulling an Exorcist and turning even the most hesitant members of the general public into temporary aficionados of the macabre. Three years have passed since the original and nothing’s much changed; still intact are lean, mean, and very devilish thrills not to be messed with.
This year’s follow-up to the 2013 juggernaut expectedly pales in comparison to its predecessor — how could it not — but it’s unusual in that it could very well stand on its own and still be regarded as a solid piece of terrifying exhibition. Success is rare for any sequel to a critical and commercial triumph, especially for the horror genre, and The Conjuring 2, against the odds, delivers the goods without attempting to outdo or undermine the beast that made it.
As the film opens, we find the movie’s previous protagonists, the aforementioned Warrens, recovering from the psychological wounds left by their 1976 investigation of the Amityville murders. Ed, per usual, has quickly compartmentalized the case into the deepest pits of his mind, figuring it better to abstain from unhealthy dwelling, but Lorraine, a possessor of psychic powers, has become immensely disturbed by the events experienced in the wretched home. She’s considering quitting her self-made profession; she’s not so sure she can continue carry the weight of someone else’s literal demons.
But before she can give her skepticisms too much serious thought, the Warrens are drawn toward an intriguing case across the pond. Due to overzealous tabloid coverage, the recent hauntings of the lower-class Hodgson family has become all the rage in town gossip and in news stories. According to several reports varying in their authenticity, Janet (Madison Wofle), the second oldest of four children, has been suffering from strange bouts of sleepwalking and, most dramatically, instances of possession. The flat in which the family’s living seems to be tormented by a poltergeist unwilling to leave — and as time drags on, malice increases. Naturally, Ed and (a hesitant) Lorraine take the long flight over in hopes to dig deeper. All that surrounds them, of course, is much more complex than anyone could ever realize.
And so retained is the fun of the first Conjuring in its sequel; it’s a skillfully designed and executed horror show with more than a few whodunit undertones lurking beneath its jump scare tactics. We grow to care about its characters just as much the solving of the central mystery, and the Warrens, already such likably offbeat heroes, are provided with increased depth that reminds us that in front of us are not pulpy ghostbusters but genuinely vulnerable people who just so happen to have extremely difficult jobs.
So while I can admit that The Conjuring 2 is not as spine-chilling as the film preceding it — there’s a higher reliance on slammed doors, too-quickly-revealed foes, and generalized possession tropes (and there’s certainly no equivalent to the first film’s memorable clap supplemented basement scare sequence) — there’s no denying that on display is an intelligent horror blockbuster more than likely to satisfy the thirsts of fans of the 2013 film and horror pundits alike. B