Monday, December 5, 2016

#2,265. The Conjuring 2 (2016)

Directed By: James Wan

Starring: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Madison Wolfe

Tag line: "The next true story from the case files of Ed and Lorraine Warren"

Trivia: On the first day of shooting, a priest was brought in to bless the set

I'm a big fan of 2013’s The Conjuring, which featured a haunting that famed paranormal researchers Ed and Lorraine Warren looked into in 1971. So when it was announced that it’s follow-up, The Conjuring 2, would focus on an entirely different case from the Warren’s files, and that James Wan was returning as director, I was hopeful this second go-around would match the intensity of the first movie.

To my delight, Wan and his team have, with The Conjuring 2, delivered yet another excellent supernatural thriller. After another viewing or two, I might even find that I prefer this sequel to the original film!

In 1976, while investigating the supposed haunting of a house in Amityville, New York, paranormal researcher Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) encountered a demon more formidable than any she had experienced before. An evil so powerful that it made its way into her dreams. Lorraine saw this as a sign that she and her husband Ed (Patrick Wilson) should take a break for a while, and not accept any new cases.

It isn't until the Catholic Church approaches them a year later, asking them to fly to London to help a family in need, that a reluctant Ed and Lorraine go back to work.

For months, the Hodgson clan - single mother Peggy (Frances O’Connor) and her four children Margaret (Lauren Esposito), Janet (Madison Wolfe), Johnny (Patrick McAuley) and Billy (Benjamin Haigh) - has been harassed by a spirit claiming to be the former owner of their house in Enfield, a suburb of London. Centering most of its attention on daughter Peggy, the ghost, who goes by the name Bill Wilkins (Bob Adrian), lets the family know that they ae trespassing, and should leave immediately.

It isn’t long after the police themselves experience these strange occurrences that the news media catches wind of it, and by the time the Warrens arrive, all of England is abuzz, wondering if the Enfield haunting is the real deal or just another hoax.

With the help of fellow researcher Maurice Grosse (Simon McBurney), the Warrens begin their investigation, only to discover that the entity in the Hodgson’s home is more treacherous than even they anticipated.

Along with being a well-directed film (a scene early on, when the camera follows the Hodgson kids through the house as they get ready for bed, is pretty darn cool), The Conjuring 2 is frightening as hell. The opening sequence, where the Warrens are holding a séance in the infamous Amityville house, gets things off to a spooky start, and the various encounters that the Hodgsons have with Bill Wilkins’ ghost will surely make the hairs on the back of your neck stand at attention (the scene where Janet is home sick from school is particularly nerve-racking).

In addition, the manifestations of the spirits in The Conjuring 2, especially the demon from the Amityville house, which resembles a nun, will give you the creeps, as will those moments when Wilkins’ ghost “speaks” through Janet (though played by Bob Adrian, the voicework for Bill Wilkins was handled by Robin Atkin Downes).

As for the performances, Wilson and Farmiga continue the fine work they did in The Conjuring as Ed and Lorraine Warren, and Frances O’Connor is equally strong as the mother caught up in a nightmare. Yet it was young Madison Wolfe as the oft-terrorized Janet who impressed me most. She is especially good in those scenes where her character is “channeling” the spirit of Bill Wilkins. And while the final sequence left me a bit cold (aside from being too frantic, it was also quite predictable), The Conjuring 2 is a solid horror film, and has me anxious to see what Wan and co. will come up with next.

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