Horror films today are often unable to strike the appropriate balance between terror and coherency. So the notion of The Conjuring 2 being able to match the competency of its predecessor (the exception that proves the aforementioned rule) seemed like an anomaly. Yet here we are. The fact that James Wan came back to direct the sequel should have given skeptics pause. Clearly these paranormal tales (or I hope to a lesser extent the paycheck) spoke to him strongly enough to warrant a revisit. Wan holds the reins confidently, sticking with the same formula that made the original so successful. The bar isn’t raised; it sits comfortably where we left off three years ago.
The Demonologist/Power-couple Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) Warren have remained steadfast in their pursuit of evil, despite recent hoaxes further discrediting their practice. The resolve for their craft comes second only to their love for one another–quite a beautiful story if the backdrop was slightly less morose. Their relationship is seamlessly woven to humanize this inhuman yarn.
The Warrens travel to England to investigate a house where a family is being tormented by another disgruntled demon. The youngest daughter, Janet, serves as a conduit for the spirit to get his message across. The assumption that Janet is possibly faking the possessions (although the audience know for sure she isn’t) comes into question and adds an element that distinguishes this film from the original. While this helps stir the pot, I would’ve preferred the audience be left a little more in the dark regarding Janet’s potential rouse.
The Conjuring 2 dives head first into the typical horror tropes we have seen time and time again: those late night trips to go investigate a foreign noise make up the crux of the first half of the film. At this point you would think the characters should just pee the bed and deal with the consequences in the morning. Each quiet moment is followed by a loud bang just begging you to jump (and yes a girl did actually scream in the theater). But aside from those cheap scares, the film has genuine suspense thanks to a thriller-esque “race against the clock” final act. Although the first two-thirds of the film may seem like a chaotic series of events, the conclusion manages to tie back to those earlier scenes. We are dealing with a vastly supernatural story so if one is expecting sound logic in its finale, look elsewhere.
In a nut shell: With the lack of past memorable horror sequels, the fact The Conjuring 2 is anything above average is a remarkable achievement. The film dishes out serious scares followed by occasional relief to give us a collective breath. Thanks once again to excellent performances from Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, we return to the world of the paranormal with wide, unsuspecting eyes. While its ending wraps the story up a tad too tight, the overall experience was one only those great horror films are able to achieve. (3.5 out of 4)