It is a moment to savour, and fear, because this week I’m taking a look at a massively anticipated Horror sequel. The original sparked audience and critical acclaim, but can “The Conjuring 2” terrify with equal measures of joy?
Based upon the events of the Enfield Hauntings in England during the 1970’s, Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga) are close to throwing it all in. The perils of the investigations are taking their toll on Lorraine, and the media is out to dis-prove their work. However, across in England, a family living in a Council Estate are being tormented by a presence that is far more violent than the usual moving furniture. Their lives are in peril, and the Warrens are brought in to clarify if the events can be backed up with evidence. What awaits them, might be their darkest investigation to date.
It is interesting to first look back at the first movie – similar traits and themes to “The Poltergeist”, but with some great performances and unique imagery that was properly creepy. It injected some vigour into the genre at a time when getting a good Horror flick wasn’t a common thing to witness during a year. Having a pretty fascinating background to the story helped as well, and even though the horrible spin off “Annibelle” was thrown at us, the promise of a sequel made fans very excited.
Jump forward to this movie, and the feel of it is very different. The setting of England adds a real sense of atmosphere to the story, mostly from the gloomy weather, and kind of run-down feel of the times. This happens in just a Council House remember, not a big and grand mansion of old. And for me, that makes it WAY more scarier – it looks like a house I would pass by in town, very unremarkable and ordinary. The idea that this tale happens in somewhere so plain rattled my nerves a lot.
There is definitely the sense of a darker tone too, some of the things you see on screen are pretty fucked up. Never mind the opening sequence that really drills home “We’re going to terrify the hell out of you, just to let you know” for the audience. Of course being rated 15A, you know you’re not going to see the worst imagery the director could throw in your direction, but they get pretty close to that at times.
Let’s stick with the Horror, because hand-on-heart… I had the shakes leaving the theatre. That so rarely happens for me, I love Horror but never really get emotionally scared from it. Here is a different story altogether. The majority of what happens centres about one of the young girls named Janet (Madison Wolfe), as her apparent sleepwalking routines quickly escalate to paranormal terror. The jump-scares are heaped up through the entire running time, and you’ll find that quite a measure of them will genuinely scare you rather than just have you jump from a loud noise. The imagery of the “thing” tormenting the family is messed up and almost like “Ringu”, sticks in your mind like it has been burned onto your retina.
There are some really nice little inclusions too. The obvious ones such as the similarities to “The Exorcist”, “Ringu”, and maybe a little of “The Babadook”? But also the retro title for the film that scrolls down the screen, and the brilliant effect of a shadow moving across the wall. That was fucking creepy and I loved it.
Most of this wouldn’t stand up unless there was tension leading up to the scares, and that is where the sound design and camerawork comes into its realm. It is simply brilliant – the score is ruthlessly basic but effective, and the sound elements pasted into the scenes have a specific weight to them, it is one of the first things you notice as the movie begins. The ominous base from the speakers kept me on edge. And oh, that camera play, they worked so hard to get some amazing angles to capture the tension from. From mini long-shots, to sweeping arcs and dynamic, fluid motions, you can’t help but be mesmerised by it. I can’t praise it enough, especially in a genre where the shakey-Cam tends to ruin so many examples of films just because it was over-used and not understood.
The performances are just as solid as the predecessor, with Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga working wonderfully with each other. They use a great dynamic that keeps you interested in their personal stories, and how that effects them during the investigation. The kids from the family are excellent as well, some spot-on casting for Madison Wolfe, Lauren Esposito, Patrick McAuley, and Benjamin Haigh. They look and act just as normal siblings would, and their writing goes a long way towards making what eventually happens to them all the more terrifying. Seriously, some of the stuff Madison Wolfe had to go through to get the sequences for this film were crazy – absolutely mental. She pulled off what many a seasoned actor or actress would often fail to reach.
If you had to twist my arm and demand to know problems with this…. I think some of the slower moments of character building (some of them) aren’t as well achieved as expected. They’re not bad, but once or twice I was just waiting for them to play out before the focus would shoot to more pressing matters at hand. That and the gimmick of the protagonists leaving to only find the solution and immediately returning. But again not a bad thing, just a little too much ham in the sandwich.
You could argue that being ready to be scared going into this, I may have ended up giving it more praise than was fully earned. Maybe you’d be right for when you go to see it. But like a Marvel franchise film, I was excited to see this, but at the same time wary that it could all fall flat on its face. That worry was there, but it never manifested itself. From the opening to the un-nerving realistic comparison images at the credits, it had me glued to the big screen.
What we have here, is the rarest of rare, a signed first edition amongst the desired novels. A Horror sequel that absolutely equals the effect and quality of that which it was inspired from. “The Conjuring 2” is everything and more that the fans were hoping for, and those new to the series will have a riot looking into the stories this was based upon. Just the fact that I am still looking back at moments of it with a shiver down my spine, is a guarantee that this will be a must-have for the month-long Halloween movie viewings.
Thanks for reading!