Along with bad government and beautiful women, Australia is known for its great actors and directors. No one shoots a car better than an Aussie and when horror was near death, James Wan was there to pick up the pieces. For Insidious and The Conjuring he used techniques and scares that showed horror could be good without being cheap and passionless. After making the glorious schlock fest Furious 7 he returned to the genre with The Conjuring 2. Has Wan breathed new life into contemporary horror or should he move on?
After a traumatic event at the Amityville house Ed and Lorraine Warren, played by Sam Wilson and Vera Farmiga, take a break from investigating the paranormal. Not long after going on hiatus, the couple hears about demonic activity tormenting a family in England, and decides to help them.
To say Conjuring 2 is the first Conjuring repeated is apt and not a bad thing. The first film was fantastic in how it handled scares, the investigative story, and the mounting tension throughout. If it worked so well, why do anything different the second time? A lot of horror series do that, but because there is a rush to meet an annual release, the series begins to decay.
The difference with Conjuring 2 is that it reinforces the best parts of its predecessor. A lot of what made that movie good was achieved in filmmaking techniques that are otherwise nonexistent in today’s horror. There are long shots, off-kilter angles, and a great use of darkness. The scares are diverse and build to a crescendo that keeps you on edge until the inevitable cut. They are simple, but clever, utilizing every trick available. One moment in the sequel was genius from an effects standpoint and how it was setup. Be sure to pay attention when it happens.
Wilson and Farmiga were right in their element. Lorraine is still a mess with her abilities and premonitions, while Ed is trying to support her and remain steadfast in their mission to help people. The standout was Madison Wolfe as Janet, the young victim of the demonic activity. Though her voice is dubbed over in the possession scenes, she shows herself to be a great physical actor, conveying the intensity, stress, and pain of hosting a demon.
While most of Conjuring 2 relies on practical effects, some parts feature glaring CG work. It just looks bad, like it was not colored according to the set lighting. I understand if the story demanded elements that could not be done practical, but if you cannot do it without looking bad, do not do it at all.
As a horror movie sequel, The Conjuring 2 is what a follow-up should be. While it is more of the same, it does exactly what made the last movie great without saturating itself. If you liked the first, you will be right at home. To the uninitiated, I highly recommend watching The Conjuring before buying a ticket.