Saturday, June 25, 2016

Conjuring 2, The (2016)

Director: James Wan
Notable Cast: Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Frances O’Connor, Madison Wolfe, Simon McBurney, Franka Potente, Laruen Esposito, Patrick McAuley, Benjamin Haigh, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Simon Delaney, Shannon Kook, Sterling Jerins, Bob Adrian, Abhi Sinha, Bonnie Aarons, Javier Botet

James Wan remains the king of modern mainstream horror. We should all just admit it now. He takes low budget horror and makes it financially viable with Saw and Insidious. He takes cliché elements and throw back style and gives it the strength to compete against summer blockbusters with his last horror film, The Conjuring. So it’s no wonder that The Conjuring 2 put a dent into the June box office. He accomplishes these kinds of things as a director by going back to basics and not into the realm of popcorn film making that horror so readily focuses on. He focuses on story and on atmosphere. That’s why The Conjuring 2 works so well. Sure, the critics might call it a disappointment because it doesn’t quite reach the heights of the first one, but The Conjuring 2 is better than I expected. In fact, I feel it’s only a smidgen weaker than the original one and matches it in a lot of ways. No, this film is not “original” as I have seen so many reviews claim, but it’s a film that crafts a balance with execution and heart worth seeing.

Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson, Vera Farminga) have been in the game of investigating demonic forces for quite some time now and their latest case, looking into the events of the Amityville horror, has left Lorraine a little wary. However, a single mother and her four kids in England are on the verge of experiencing a true horror. A horror that has reached out across the ocean to the Warren’s already.

"I need to buy all the crosses in your store. Home improvement project, actually."
Let’s start off by setting the record straight. The Conjuring was not a perfect film. However, it’s a film that works in the long run and remains as solid and horrifying now as it did when I saw it in theaters. It’s still a great film, but it’s not perfect. This is also the case for The Conjuring 2. It suffers from some of the same issues namely length and lots of secondary plots that don’t necessarily serve the narrative as much as being there for character development only. The film is also very much a throwback to classic horror elements, this time with its British setting there are a few gothic pieces on hand, so those looking for something “original” are still going to find themselves grumbling under their breath. What The Conjuring 2 does do well is that it retains a lot of the great elements that made the previous entry so good too. The film is incredibly layered when it wants to be, further building the “world” that the Warrens and their various investigations live in and adding in subtle new elements to it, and it retains that focus on character connection and a sense of purpose that drives home the foundations. It does take some time to build these things, as it did with The Conjuring, and there are a few moments where things could have been tightened down, but really everything in the film serves a purpose (including that Elvis sing-a-long I’ve heard so many people complain about) and it’s that intent that builds such a great heart to seed the horror. It makes us care about both the family and the Warrens, so that the horror elements can do their job at making us fear for them.

As a horror film, The Conjuring 2 is also quite successful and it’s easy to give Wan a lot of credit for it. This film has a dripping atmosphere and the film layers in more demonic villains to give it a slightly more robust antagonist network for the Warrens and the family to battle. There are some serious jump scares for those looking for that kind of horror, but it’s the atmospheric tension and dread that really works on the nerves. Wan has a knack for building up sequences that spook audiences and The Conjuring 2 features a handful of memorable pieces that are both horrific and artful. In particular, a sequence where Ed Warren is interviewing the young girl who is possessed by a spirit – who just happens to be sitting out of focus on the right – is something sublime and insanely effective. Another one features a toy fire truck and another one features a TV remote that mysteriously disappears. At times the increased amount of demonic villains can be slightly too much for an audience to handle. There were whispers of confusion concerning the smaller role for the Crooked Man and how he connected to the main antagonist the creepy Nun and some friends of mine didn’t quite get why the Nun appears when the Warrens are investigating the Amityville incident in the opening, but neither of those things really seemed to affect my understanding or enjoyment of what The Conjuring 2 had to offer. Wan details his films and layers them to the point of saturation, so like the original I foresee this film actually growing better with repeated viewings.

This is usually when the word "counseling" will be used in your marriage.
If anything, the disappointment from certain fans and critics is understandable. The similar structure and foundations in The Conjuring 2 might be too close to the original, but the new and more robust layering might be too complicated for more straightforward entertainment. For me, it’s another diverse and effective horror film from Wan and company that features another round of great performances, palpable atmosphere, and fun demonic designs. If anything, I’m more than excited that Wan continues to craft thoughtful horror that appeals to mainstream audiences. I whole heartedly hope that we get a Conjuring 3, 4, and 5 and as many spin offs as we can get from the various monsters of this “haunted universe.”

I do sincerely hope we get a Crooked Man spin off. If anything, that apparition was underused in the film and featured a creepy and fun design worthy of its own film.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

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