Ed and Lorraine Warren are back, this time to battle spirits in 1977 England. Horror auteur James Wan serves up this sequel that isn’t quite as scary as the first, but undoubtedly a better film.
Once again based on, or more accurately, lightly inspired by true events, “The Conjuring 2” tells the story of what has come to be known as The Enfield Poltergeist. Still to this day it is regarded as one of the most well documented accounts of possession. There are photographs, film, and audio tapes in which a young girl appears to speak with the voice of a 70 year old man. But with every piece of evidence that seemed to support her claim, they would also come up with evidence that supported it being a hoax.
In a bold move, James Wan splits the first half of the movie into two parallel stories. While the Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) are reeling from the media attention due to their involvement with the Amityville Horror case, halfway across the globe Peggy Hodgson (Frances O’Connor) and her children are moving into a new home. While the nature of their struggles are different, the matriarchs of both families are fighting against forces they are afraid of, forces that ultimately threaten to tear their families apart. To say the main characters of a film don’t actually meet till halfway through may sound like a bad thing, but the pacing and storytelling are so masterful that once they do meet, we are fully vested in their well being. Even after the Warrens arrive on scene, and the severity of the hauntings escalate, there are occasional pauses for true character moments. This is rare in most modern movies especially of this genre.
Beyond the excellent pacing and storytelling, Wan shows off some unique camera work. The first faux-uncut sequence that guides us through the Hodgson’s home is a technical marvel. He’s not just showing off, as this visual exposition immediately familiarizes us with the layout of their 2-story home. Any action that occurs in the next two hours, we are able to immediately recognize where it is taking place and its relationship to the rest of the family.
If there is a single flaw in the movie, it’s the representation of “the crooked man”, apparently a hallucination brought on by the evil spirit on the youngest boy. Shot with jerky-stop-motion-esque CGI, this short sequence immediately breaks the tone of the film. Arguably, the appearance of the crooked man could simply be a nightmare invoked by all the truly demonic things taking place around him, which would explain the change in style. But even so, it’s a poor choice to thrust the audience into a short Tim Burton sequence without any rhyme or reason. Fortunately, with everything else the movie gets right, this is a minor issue.