“This is as close to hell as I ever wanna get”
‘The Conjuring’ was an effective, if not genre-changing, chiller/horror. The two main characters, Ed and Lorraine Warren, gave the film a solid heart. There wasn’t an over-reliance on jump scares, just a stuffy atmosphere of fear and darkness. I missed the spin-off ‘Annabelle,’ but thought I would give the sequel a chance. ‘The Conjuring 2’ is the typical sequel. It does more of the same with a slightly bigger budget. There are not one, but two hauntings the Warrens investigate (one is the overlong prologue, the other is the main story). Unfortunately, this doesn’t equate to more scares and horror. An over-reliance on jump scares and some dodgy CGI monsters deflate a well-crafted atmosphere. Not only that, but the running time is too excessive to maintain a constant level of horror.
The original covered a paranormal investigation that I’d never heard of before. The sequel, however, covers two hauntings that have been covered in recent television and film. The prologue covers the Amityville hauntings. There are no less than thirteen films based on Amityville. The original 1979 film based on the hauntings was remade a little over a decade ago. Did we really need to see it again in film? ‘The Conjuring 2’s’ take on it only appears to show us the main ‘villain’ of the piece, the Demon Nun (I kid you not: that’s what she’s called in the credits!). Like the film itself, the prologue overstays its welcome. At times there is palpable terror on the screen, but tension turns into tedium all too often (like the film itself!).
“Janet’s asleep and I’m talking”
Ever heard of The Enfield Haunting? Well, if you have Sky TV, you were probably bombarded with adverts about a series covering The Enfield Haunting last year. Again, ‘The Conjuring 2’ covers something which is even fresher in the collective cultural memory. Screen time is split between the beginnings of the Enfield Haunting and the Warrens in America. The Enfield Haunting begins wiith a handy visual and audio guide as to where in the world we are: London! ‘London Calling’ blares through the speakers as we see red buses, red telephone boxes, etc. How original! Lorraine Warren doesn’t want to continue investigating hauntings. She foresaw Ed’s death when she saw the Demon Nun. However, they change their minds and go over to sort Enfield out…
Some genuinely scary moments are dotted throughout the film. Wan knows how to use a single scene to maximise dread. His classic zoom in/zoom out reveals always show something unnerving. He starts off slow, building the atmosphere until the time is ripe to put on the big scares. However, unlike ‘The Conjuring,’ the wait in the sequel is often too long. I found my mind wandering more than a few times. That is never a good sign! The overlong running time never felt justified. Scenes dragged out and turned effective scares into drawn out yawns. Sometimes the wait pays off, but I felt that most of the time, it didn’t.
“So you’ve heard this story before”
We all know that the best horror comes from what we don’t see, rather than what we see. ‘The Conjuring 2’ is best when we don’t see everything. A fine example is when Ed talks to the ghost possessing Janet (the girl who is the focus of the haunting). The camera zooms in on Ed, who is turned away from Janet. The shadows change, turning Janet into something else. It’s a great use of light, shadow and camera angle to create something unnerving. Unfortunately, the scene does outlast its welcome. However, the film does take some unnecessary forays into CGi monsters, such as the ‘Crooked Man.’ There’s one laughable scene where a dog turns into the ‘Crooked Man.’ It’s an abomination of CGI. It takes you out of the film. Why not use light and shadow to make the actual entity diffuse and indistinct? When you see the monster, more often than not the terror dissipates. On more than a few occasions, that’s what happens here.
I’ve read that a man died of a heart attack in the cinema whilst watching ‘The Conjuring 2.’ Either he’s not used to horrors, or he had too much salted popcorn. The film is only scary in small doses. The flicking between Enfield and the Warrens in the middle of the film detracts from the atmosphere. When the Warrens eventually take on the case, the scares don’t increase, either. Time drags and scenes drag. Effective scenes of terror are few and far between. Familiarity, not just with the original film, but with two hauntings that are in the popular consciousness, also hampers the horror. A wasted opportunity to build on the impressive original.
VERDICT: 5/10. An average sequel that tries to be bigger and better than the original by including two hauntings. But an overlong duration and CGI monsters siphon off the atmosphere that James Wan tried to create.
Leave your thoughts/comments below!