By James Hancock June 10th, 2016
Director James Wan has devoted the majority of his career to scaring the hell out of people and in my opinion he has never been more successful than he was with the modern horror classic The Conjuring (2013). While Insidious (2010) also proved that Wan could work his magic with a very limited budget, there was something about The Conjuring that really got to me. I can remember lying in bed watching it on my iPad (held at arm’s length) and thrashing about in terror to the point where I pulled a muscle in my left arm and bit down so hard on my tongue that I had to put a dishrag in my mouth to absorb the blood. Finally I realized that I was being ridiculous and played the rest of the movie on my television which I resolutely stood in front of with my arms crossed and teeth pressed together to avoid any further injury. So when I heard that Wan was returning to the franchise with a new story about Lorraine and Ed Warren, I knew I would be there opening day. I saw the movie tonight with a rowdy crowd and they reacted very strongly to the movie. I’m not going to place it on quite the same level as the first film but the movie has enough scares, particularly in the first half, to keep most horror fans writhing in fear no matter how jaded they might be. My hope is that after James Wan has enjoyed working with some very different material making Aquaman for Warner Bros, perhaps he’ll come back to us for one final tale about everyone’s favorite paranormal investigators.
Using the true story of the Enfield Poltergeist which took place from 1977-1979 as a jumping off point, The Conjuring 2 follows Lorraine and Ed’s efforts to determine whether or not the tabloid sensation is an elaborate hoax or the work of something truly demonic. The film is at its best early on when focusing on the character Janet played by the superb Madison Wolfe. While all of her siblings experience terrifying episodes with the creepy poltergeist known as Bill Wilkins, it is Janet who receives the majority of his attention. What begins as a relatively harmless haunting by a disagreeable old man rapidly escalates to truly disturbing territory once the spirit is provoked by a police investigation and the local media. In spite of Lorraine’s desire to scale back on their investigations due to a premonition of Ed’s death at the hands of a demon, they finally agree to come to the family’s aid. What follows is a lot of evil chaos and anarchy much like in the first film although I’d argue that the screenplay to this film is not well constructed or engaging. There is no sequence that comes anywhere near to the astonishingly good opening to the first Conjuringwhere we met the character Annabelle. Taken by itself, the story of Annabelle in The Conjuring is probably my favorite short film in the horror genre. That said, The Conjuring 2 is well worth seeing. Whether you’re a horror buff or just looking for a fun crowd experience, the movie absolutely delivers. In the last ten years, it is difficult to think of a filmmaker who has contributed more to the horror genre than James Wan. At this point he is essentially a virtuoso musician on this front and I will always show up to enjoy signature his tales of the macabre.
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