The Conjuring 2

 photo conjuring_two_zps37p07hq8.jpg photo starrating-3andahalfstars.jpgAny decent actor worth their weight in salt can do justice to a part that’s inherently outstanding. But it takes an extraordinary talent to give life to a generic part and make it captivating. That’s the power of Vera Farmiga, an American actress active since her Broadway debut in the play Taking Sides in 1996. Perhaps today’s audiences know Farmiga best as Norma Louise Bates in the A&E television series Bates Motel. But her star turn in 2013’s The Conjuring  brought her some much deserved recognition. She, along with the accomplished Patrick Wilson, return as real life paranormal investigators Loraine and Ed Warren. The Warrens received recognition for their involvement in the Amityville Horror case made famous by the 1979 movie.

The Conjuring 2 is actually based on the Enfield poltergeist, some alleged spiritual activity that affected a council house in England from 1977 to 1979. But before we get to the legitimate heart of this tale, the narrative briefly revisits the Amityville Horror events. Ostensibly, this is to just to lay the groundwork for the societal doubt that the Warrens incurred for their work. Then it’s off to London, England, where the Warrens fly out to meet afflicted matriarch, Peggy Hodgson. This is where the proper story finally takes off — nearly an hour into this 134 minute film. Yes it is much too long.  I contend the horror sweet spot is a brisk 90 minutes.  Anyway, Peggy believes that some nasty ghosts are haunting her home. Then her youngest daughter Janet (Madison Wolfe) starts showing signs of demonic possession. Ed and Lorraine investigate and pretty soon those pesky spirits have targeted them.

Director James Wan is back. Besides helming the original The Conjuring, he directed Saw and Insidious so he knows a thing or two about horror. Wan focuses on the traumatized family first.  For a while this is a document of how a close knit household, united by a single mother, is torn apart. Then the focus shifts to the Warrens and here’s where the dramatic skills of a couple of superior actors strengthen the account. Wilson and Farmiga are Christian paranormal investigators relying on their faith and working for the Catholic church.  They are portrayed as sensible people with a healthy skepticism. Through it all, director James Wan keeps the shocks coming. The events are fashioned like a roller coaster ride with a rhythmical ebb and flow of tension and calm. Scares are artfully presented in a period atmosphere.  It lends the proceedings the look of quality that gives horror aficionados joy.  Furniture moves by itself.  Unexplained banging noises/voices are heard.  There’s 4 feet of water in the basement. That sets the mood.  The demons are scary too. One unwanted visitor looks like rocker Marilyn Manson dressed up like a nun.  Pasty white fingers reach out from behind a painting.  A spinning zoetrope brings a “crooked man” to life. I jumped a few times, but to be honest, this shtick all feels pretty familiar. Ultimately the movie belongs to Wilson and particularly Farmiga. Their unmitigated sincerity sells this picture. I was invested because of them.

06-09-16

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13 Responses to “The Conjuring 2”

  1. martin1250 Says:

    good review Mark. haven’t seen this one because horror films nowadays can be too intense. but speaking of Vera Farmiga, she was also very good in 2009’s Orphan.

    • I guess it depends on how you define “intense”. It IS rated R (17 and over), although that’s being cautious. Honestly even a PG-13 movie can be pretty frightening if done properly. There are scary images, but not even close to a picture like Hostel or Saw.

  2. An excellent read sir. I agree, the focus on the Warrens, the increased focus, rather, really helps The Conjuring 2. Yeah, it is more of the same wirth regards to the jump-scare formula and the demonic reveals and what-not but like in 2013, I was hooked almost from beginning to end. I say almost, because again we agree: this movie is a little bit too long. And by a little I mean a lot.

    • It takes awhile for the actual story to begin, but once it does, it’s pretty fun. I won’t say the plot redefines the genre — because it doesn’t. BUT it is a beautifully composed piece of horror. And right now, it’s one of the better things making money at the multiplex.

  3. Another great performance by Vera Faramiga would be her turn in Up In The Air. She almost overshadowed Clooney and Anna in that masterpiece. Excellent review. Conjuring 2 may just be one of those few sequels equaling the predecessor. Annabelle was a nightmare though

    • Agreed. Vera Farmiga was outstanding in Up in the Air. She received a lot of recognition for that role including an Oscar nomination.

      I’d actually argue she was even more phenomenal in Higher Ground. Unfortunately nobody saw that movie.

  4. I agree, Vera Farmiga is very good. She believes she is this woman. Very convincing in her portrayal. Nothing different here, but very scary. Story was good enough to seem real. If it was, whew. 4 stars

  5. I loved Farmiga and Wilson but never found any of the ghosts to be scary. The Old man was laughable and the nun was just meh. It had some good surprise moments but I never found the movie to be scary. People around me sure got into it and that’s great but it didnt work for me

    • Yeah I don’t know if I was ever actually scared, more like I jumped a few times because of surprises. I was entertained, though, so I enjoyed it.

  6. I thought The Conjuring 2 was well-crafted from a technical perspective with some great scares and some creepy scenes. I found it pretty repetitive though, and thought that the crooked man belonged in another movie altogether. Like you, I also thought it was way too long. Plus, I was annoyed with the movie’s bizarre focus on the relationship between Ed and Lorraine, trying to portray it as perfect, considering Ed did so many crappy things to his wife, like pushing her to do things she didn’t want to and abandoning her at a critical time to be the hero.

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