There are Ghostbusters in the theaters already! Before fans get worked up into a frenzy and side up with either defending their childhoods against the abomination of reboots or extolling the virtues of fresh spins on comedic classics with a bit of a girl-power twist, let me tell you that I’m not talking about the matching-outfits, hearse-driving, proton-pack-wearing team that you’re familiar with. No, today we’re talking about a pair of real people, some of the most famous paranormal investigators to ever actually walk the planet: yes, Ed and Lorraine Warren are back in action on the big screen in “The Conjuring 2,” a film that aims to somehow ramp up the scares from the couples’ first outing in the theaters since the original film came out in 2013.
It’s an odd assignment and a seemingly tall task for returning director James Wan – to tell a sequel about a real-life couple when you’ve almost assuredly used the “best” based-on-actual-events story that they have to drive the first film. How do you portray what is essentially the second-place life story in a way that makes the new movie feel just as gripping as the original? I’m happy to report that, with a solid blend of old-meets-new scare tactics and a firm grip on what makes this film series so entertaining – the grounded yet open-to-believing nature of the Warrens themselves – ‘The Conjuring 2’ stands tall as a sequel that’s actually worth your time and legitimately stands on its own accords instead of relying too heavily on it’s series-name power.
In terms of plot, this film is a standalone and doesn’t necessarily require a viewer to have seen ‘The Conjuring‘ prior to watching this one. The first film ended with the Warrens being called by the Catholic Church to go to investigate another paranormal disturbance, on Long Island in New York; attuned horror fans know that this is a direct reference to the infamous “Amityville Horror” case for which the Warrens are well-known. ‘The Conjuring 2’ opens with a brief glimpse at a key moment of that case before whisking the audience into the “present day” relative to this movie’s story: 1997, which finds the couple determined to end their active involvement in paranormal cases after the harrowing experience of Amityville. Their helping nature gets the better of them, though, as they agree to assist a family in a London suburb who has fallen under supernatural hard times. Janet Hodgson, a run-of-the-mill 11-year-old girl, has seemingly been possessed by a demonic presence, and the Catholic Church once again calls on the Warrens to investigate whether the girl is merely faking her experience as a hoax, or if there is truly something more sinister at play.
‘The Conjuring 2’ makes its power felt to audiences with the strong dichotomy of the quiet calm that Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) manage to exude even when they are faced with seemingly impossible and terrifying scenarios that play out directly in front of them. They are believers in the paranormal, obviously, but their approach is one that might be best summed up as “respectful skepticism” – they know that the supernatural exists, but they always approach each new experience with the idea that what they’ll be seeing today might not be one of those actual otherworldly experiences.
I’d like to make a special mention of the cinematography that this film shows. The camera work is nothing short of masterful; long shots moving smoothly from downstairs all the way upstairs in a small London flat really make you feel like you are experiencing what’s happening on screen right along with the family. Excellent use of dark corners and action happening just off the screen are effective tools the filmmakers employed as well. I’m not too proud to say that I found myself stretching my neck to try and see around the corner of the movie screen more than once during the film; it didn’t work out for me, but that wasn’t going to stop my brain from trying it!
Of course, what would a “scary movie” be without its actual scares? If you go to see a horror film for the sheer thrill of the jump-scare, then I can say you won’t be disappointed in this film. Wan and his team masterfully control the action on screen from start to finish, and their pacing somehow moves smoothly from mundane everyday life events into frenetic paranormal chaos, almost even before you as the viewer know that it’s happening. There are scenes where you don’t expect anything to happen – and then all of the sudden, things go to crazy-town; then there are scenes where you’re sure that someone (or someTHING) is going to jump out and start scaring the bejeezus out of you at any moment, and it never happens. It’s this feeling of “dreading the dread” that really helps ‘The Conuring 2’ be as effective as it is.
Tony Schaab isn’t allowed at his local Humane Society anymore, because all he would do while there is try to put visors over the dog’s eyes and paint “K-9” in peanut butter on their sides. A lover of most things sci-fi and horror, Tony is an author by day and a DJ by night. Come hang out with Tony on Facebook and Twitter to hear him spew semi-funny nonsense and get your opportunity to finally put him in his place.