The Conjuring 2
James Wan's The Conjuring 2 is a satisfying albeit slower burn sequel that delivers on the jumps and scares, but gets hung up on its pacing and editing. Still, it's as solid as they come for mainstream horror sequels.
Horror maestro James Wan returns with an R-rated sequel to his breakout hit The Conjuring. Sequels are rarely as good as the originals, yet The Conjuring 2 manages to be a mostly successful round two with Ed and Lorraine Warren as they investigate a creepy case of the demonic in London.
Possession-based horror films might be a dime a dozen, but occasionally there’s some quality involved, usually whenever James Wan‘s name is on the director bill, which includes the first Conjuring as well as the first two Insidious films. Wan’s ability to both stick to the scares while also advancing his characters is what sets him above the rest.
He’s the master of slow-burn suspense and scares and he also knows how to move a camera in a way that really puts you smack dab in the middle of the creepy events that unfold within his films. He knows how to build on the atmosphere and earn your screams, unlike most mainstream horror directors that simply cash a check and move on.
This leads us to The Conjuring 2, which is a film that surprisingly works more than one would think, because of all of those listed traits that I’ve mentioned about Wan.
The Conjuring 2 could’ve been just another possession film, but Wan manages to make it a worthwhile sequel that actually focuses on its main characters and their progression. Both Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) are the focus here, with the actual family that’s being possessed playing a backseat to their own troubles and conflicts. Wan wisely mixes and mingles Lorraine’s nightmares and visions with the film’s central story and it’s for the better.
The kids in the family that is being haunted are fine and it’s a mostly tense experience watching them discover the ghost/demon and eventually seek out help and find a solution, but it really is just another possession film in that regard.
What makes The Conjuring 2 work so well is the focus on Ed and Lorraine as not just an ace team of paranormal researchers, but also a couple that’s also battling their own doubts and fears. Humanizing them makes the film stick that much stronger, because now we’re given a horror movie with characters that we can invest in and hope to grow with.
That, paired with Wan’s usual camera tricks and pans helps shake the fear out of you, while also chilling you to the bone. There’s no longer a line of defense that is undoubtable and instead you’ll spend part of The Conjuring 2 wondering if everyone is going to make it out alive this time.
That is more frightful than any demon jumping out of the corner or lurking in the dark waters of the basement.
The Conjuring 2 is still full of those moments too. Wan brings his creativity to the demons and ghosts that linger in the house, keeping things feeling fresh and disturbing in even doses. I didn’t jump all that much, but I did find his use of lighting and sound to be as effective as they were in his previous films.
Wan’s ability to create such an atmospheric and creepy film without even needing to drop any real blood is impressive and just another example of how he’s the master of his craft.
The film does start to slow down and almost stall at the midway point. The ending act edit feels rough and rushed and totally unlike the rest of the film’s slow-burn approach. These aren’t deal breakers in terms of finding entertainment value in the film, but they definitely hold the film back from being one of those sequels that manages to top the original.
Still, The Conjuring 2 works much better than most horror sequels. It’s just as scary, if not more, thanks to Wan’s ability to keep on surprising us around every corner. There’s a painting sequence that was completely predictable, yet so frightening, because Wan balances out the scene’s reveal in a way that keeps building and building up until the reveal. He does this, knowing that the audience knows where it’s going, yet we can’t help but keep on looking until the surprise happens. It’s a marvelous feeling that Wan consistently manages to deliver on.
That being said, I feel like The Conjuring 2 is a perfect endpoint for James Wan and the characters of Ed and Lorraine Warren. The film leaves them in an interesting spot and proves that Wan’s horror sequels can live up to the hype of the original films. I’m sure this film will make a lot of money and I want it to, because James Wan really is a talented filmmaker, but I don’t really want to see a sequel. I’d love to see Wan spread his wings and try something different. He doesn’t have to leave the horror genre completely (although I’d LOVE to see him tackle another action revenger like Death Sentence), but maybe try something else horror-related to keep his skills sharp and his stories exciting.