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The Conjuring 2 (2016)
Tonight's Feature Presentation


Starring: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Madison Wolfe, Frances O'Connor, Lauren Esposito

Written By: Carey Hayes & Chad Hayes & James Wan (also story), David Johnson

Directed By: James Wan

The Shot

The Conjuring 2 is an interesting portrait of one of the world’s most famous haunting, told through the lens of its investigators.  Never mind whether or not it’s a depiction of true events; it’s a very well made and well presented horror flick, and well worth the look for any genre fan.

The Highball

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Very good, and possibly unsettling.

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Very good, and possibly unsettling.

“How does it feel living in a haunted house?”

Long before “ghost hunting” shows became a staple of cable television programming – indeed, before cable television itself was a ubiquitous thing – Ed and Lorraine Warren made their reputations as real world paranormal investigators.  The cases they investigated have been the seeds for countless books and movies (like, say, The Conjuring)…

…and you don’t need to know any of that to fully enjoy The Conjuring 2, nor do you need to believe or disbelieve in the veracity of the Warrens’ work or the specific event being portrayed in the film.  It is, frankly, irrelevant, and besides, we all know better than to accept any Hollywood movie purporting to be a true story to be one hundred percent reliable, don’t we, Mr. Stone?

So with that said, let’s just sit back and have a look at The Conjuring 2 as a straight up stand alone horror movie.

It begins in outstanding fashion, with the Warrens (played by Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson) investigating nothing less than the Amityville Horror, just weeks after the house was abandoned.  The atmosphere level is set to “high” as the Warrens hold a séance during which Lorraine, a medium, enters into a trance and relives the infamous Amityville murders as though she herself were Ronald DeFeo, the killer.  This scene hits on all cylinders – tight direction, great visuals, superb atmospherics, an excellent performance by Farmiga, and the introduction of a very memorable demonic presence that will (of course) become important later.  As far as horror openings are concerned, this is one of the most effective that I’ve seen in quite some time.

Then the credits roll, and we’re all done with Amityville, never to see it again.

Not many horror flicks have the self-confidence to consider Amityville a mere opening snack, but The Conjuring 2 is more than willing to take that leap of faith (to borrow a recurring phrase from the screenplay), because everyone involved knows what’s coming next.

What’s coming next is director James Wan’s take on the so-known “Enfield Haunting,” and he and his creative team do pretty much everything right.  As for what “pretty much everything” consists of…

It starts with an outstanding portrait of the happenings in Enfield circa 1977.  Exactly enough time is taken to introduce and humanize the family involved (an absolute necessity if they’re to pass – or fail – the sincerity test later on); it’s more than one would expect from a modern screenplay, but exactly as much as is required.  (Indeed, the pacing carries with it the feel of a classic 1970s horror picture, thus further enhancing the film’s setting in time.)  The haunting/poltergeist itself is presented by degrees, allowing time for an unsettling atmosphere of dread to build up and magnify the tension.  The scares are scary without needing to be bloody and without needing to be announced by virtual cue cards; something creepy can happen at any time, and it may be subtle or it may be completely in your face.  I’d tell you more, but I don’t want to spoil the fun.  Just know that the promises made during aforementioned opening sequence are lived up to throughout The Conjuring 2, and that this really is horror done right.

The horror is enhanced not just by the sincerity with which the haunting victims are presented, but also the gentle humanity with which the Warrens are characterized.  They’re not typical butt kicking ghost hunters or coffee house know-it-alls; they, too, are presented as sincere human beings with their own questions and challenges, and who approach their work as a means of making the best use of gifts they believe to be God given.  (This is almost ironic seeing as how the story as presented sends them to Enfield in lieu of collared Catholic clergy because the Church is, apparently, more concerned with its own public image than with helping out the afflicted flock.)  It’s a big contrast to the demonic forces they’re set against, and again, the conflict is all the more effective because of it.

And that nun.  Wow, that nun.  One of the most effective horror images I’ve seen in quite some time.  You’ll never believe that she was designed as an afterthought.  (She was.)

And though again it really doesn’t matter whether or not the Enfield Haunting represents a true story for The Conjuring 2 to be a very effective horror flick, there are photos and actual audio recordings of the goings-on from 1977 that play over the end credits.  For those who are curious… and those who really don’t feel like sleeping with all the lights off for a while.

But regardless of anything, if you do like haunted house style horror, you really need to see The Conjuring 2.  If any better horror flicks show up in theatres before the end of 2016, I’ll be shocked.  Happy as a horror fan, of course, but shocked.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, June, 2016

More From The Bar! | The Woman In Black | The Omen | The Witch | Convergence |

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