When horror (and now action franchise) director James Wan created the Conjuring in 2013, it was one of the most skillfully directed and creepily told scary stories since Insidious (also directed by Wan). Word of mouth got out of how scary it was while using practical effects which led to it being a critical and box office success. And with each box office success, there are always sequels to follow. Thankfully after Furious 7, Wan had an itching for horror and went back to do his magic for the Conjuring 2. Does this sequel live up to its predecessor and chill some new bones or does it go the Paranormal Activity route with the “been there done that” type of sequel?
In 1977, paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren travel to London, England, where overwhelmed single mother Peggy Hodgson believes that something evil is in her home. When Peggy's youngest daughter starts showing signs of demonic possession, Ed and Lorraine attempt to help the besieged girl, only to find themselves targeted by the malicious spirits.
What I love about James Wan is that when he directs a horror movie, he can damn sure direct a horror movie. He has such a creepy style where a lot of the shots involve the tilted camera and the vertigo shot. There are even a lot of great shot compositions including the one shot which feels as if the story is presented like a pop-up book. He also manages to have an eerie and grim color palette involving the colors black, blue, gray, and even red. There are a plenty of jump scares and clench your stomach moment that sometimes get you and sometimes cockteases you like a good horror film should. The makeup on the demonic demons are twice as frightening than the first
The best things about these Conjuring films that a lot of other horror films fail short in are the characters. Ed and Lorraine Warren’s relationship to each other is moving in the way that you genuinely care for about them and the new cases they take up. When they work with families, the script even manages to make them not only interesting but also nicely written in the way that you care about them to. Even this new family we follow, the Hodgsons are people that you care for, because they’re not dumb. Yeah it all starts with the daughters playing with a Ouija board and bad things start to happen, but when it is destroyed all hell breaks loose in their house. Usually in situations like that you’re that audience member asking, “why don’t they leave the house?” Right when you ask it, they do it and you don’t know where the film goes from there.
The effects in this are confusing in a good way. With some things you can tell if the effects are practical and with others you can’t tell if they are or CG. Even with Mad Max, I couldn’t tell if some things where CG or not. But whereas the first there was nothing but practical effects, with the sequel’s bigger budget you can say there is a good mixture of the two. It may be hard to decipher sometimes, but in the end it’s extremely chilling and frightening images to see.
Though there are really good effects there are some that are rather questionable. Not to spoil anything but there is a special effect involving a creature with the effects of a Tim Burton stop motion film (mostly similar to Beetlejuice). Though it is used twice it just takes the fright out of it for how odd it looks.
As much as I do love Ed and Lorraine Warren as characters to a point you can tell they are better Ghostbusters than the upcoming Ghostbusters film due in a month, there are moments where when they are with the Hodgson’s the film sorta drags. This film is much longer than the original in ways it doesn’t needs to be and when you feel it, you feel it. There comes a point where you realize they’re the ghost hunting Mary Poppins to families. Then when you want the film to wrap up, it has to go to the “nobody believes me” to the “discovery” to the “we have to go back” cliche.
The Conjuring 2 has its problems with cliches and length, but it still manages to be a marginally exceptional sequel more than it needs to be [especially in the genre of horror]. Thanks to James Wan’s style, effects, and power of storytelling with characters you can care about, this is a sequel that goes hand in hand with the original.