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[Review] James Wan’s ‘The Conjuring 2’ Surpasses the First!

James Wan has done it again. The man who started out with Saw, a low budget indie flick set almost entirely in one small room, has proven that it is possible to show great improvement with each passing film, and it is feasible to make every movie scarier than the last. Just when it seemed that he couldn’t surpass the frights he conjured up with his last picture, he comes back on the scene again with a vengeance, delivering The Conjuring 2, his most stylistic and best feature to date.

Real life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren countered countless obstacles over their many years together while battling the forces of evil, but their most well documented and arguably most challenging case of all was that of the Enfield Poltergeist in 1977. Centered in a council house in the suburbs of London, England, a malevolent presence made itself known by taking advantage of the most vulnerable soul it could sink its claws into: an eleven-year-old girl named Janet Hodgson. One of four children, little Janet began experiencing strange activity late one night when a harsh voice full of hatred reached out to her and commanded her to get out of his house. Of course, despite her anxious pleas, her family didn’t believe what she was reporting was true, until they began witnessing paranormal events themselves. Beds were shaking, kids were levitating, objects flew across the room with explanation, and little Janet began speaking in low guttural growls claiming to be a man named Bill who died in their house many moons ago. Her mother, Peggy, desperate for an answer and devoid of help from legal authorities, turned to the church, and eventually, to the Warrens, for assistance. What followed were several of the most trying months of her and her family’s life, as they struggled to survive the spirit that refused to leave their home.

Enter James Wan, master of suspense. The man who brought us Dead Silence, Insidious, and The Conjuring, is back again with another terrifying tale of the Warrens, and a family in distress. It might be hard to believe that the director who brought the tension to his audiences so many times before could be capable of improving upon his past projects and creating a film that’s even more petrifying than anything he’s ever done before, but this reporter is here to tell you: believe the hype. Wan has just made his scariest movie yet, and it’s called The Conjuring 2.

The movie itself follows the real life case on nearly all fronts. Starting out with a scene based in Amityville, New York, Lorraine Warren experiences a traumatizing journey into the past when she attempts to find out the truth about what happened in the bedrooms upstairs – was the man who shot this family acting out of anger, or was he actually being possessed by demonic activity that forced him to commit these malicious acts? As Lorraine tries to uncover the truth, she unintentionally opens up the vessel to a different plane – one that shows her how her husband dies. Scared for Ed’s life, Lorraine swears off any future cases, but lo and behold, their most chilling endeavor is just on the horizon.

Meanwhile, in Enfield, little Janet begins slowly undergoing the effects of her very own ghostly phenomena, as an energy that identifies itself as old Bill Wilkins, the previous owner of the home, begins taunting her with late night frights and horrible dreams. It starts out small, with nightly events of sleepwalking and television sets changing channels by themselves, but as the days drag on, the seemingly harmless pranks turn to horrifying bouts of death threats and poltergeists. Unable to explain what’s happening and growing more frantic by the weeks, Ms. Hodgson reaches out to the Warrens, who reluctantly agree to help.

What happens next is slightly unusual. Upon the Warrens’ arrival, they find that there are, in fact, strange happenings strewn throughout this gloomy house, but as hard as she tries to open up to it, Lorraine can’t feel any sense of demonic activity within these walls. Is it possible that these kids are making up these stunning accusations? Is there any legitimacy to their claims? Is there really an evil entity toying with the Hodgsons’ sanity, or is this merely a case of bored children with overactive imaginations? Only time will tell, but one thing’s for sure: Lorraine is scared to death of losing her husband, and the closer they come to hell, the more she wishes they’d hang up their hats and call it a day.

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The second Conjuring ups the ante in almost every way. Not only is it the Warrens’ most publicized case, making it feel much more important, but it’s also much scarier than the first film, and consistently frightening throughout the entire two hour and thirteen minute runtime. Keeping an audience on the edge of their seats for such a long period of time is a difficult feat, but Wan manages to keep his viewers’ eyes locked to the screen by consistently pushing the envelope and brutally depicting a sweet, vulnerable little girl in life threatening peril.

Wan’s lucky, too, that he managed to find such a talented young actress to play his Janet Hodgson. Madison Wolfe portrays a very sympathetic victim of paranormal activity, which makes it much easier to relate to her and wish for her well being. On the flip side, she’s also very capable of depicting the bitter, brute old man who uses her and speaks through her, Mr. Bill Wilkins. It’s a strenuous role that calls for two very different personalities to be displayed in a believable manner, but somehow, this small girl who’s just starting out in the industry seemed to nail every take. With a lesser actor, some of these scenes might have come across as slightly laughable, but instead, Wolfe emits chills and sorrow and discomfort.

The fact is, this isn’t just James Wan’s creepiest movie to date, it’s also his most well made. Wan executes long oners and fluid tracking shots with ease, showing us all that this isn’t his first rodeo. It’s been a wild ride watching him all these years, as he started out as a name muttered at independent film festivals, and eventually grew into a sleek and stylish director who can frighten even the most jaded horror fans, and tap into the heart of even the most cynical movie goers. As he capitalizes on the idea of possession in the film, it becomes clear that the most terrifying thing about such circumstances isn’t the fact that a demonic plague has saturated every inch of this melancholy house, but that it has managed to isolate a sweet child from her loving family. The pain that we feel for Janet isn’t because of old Bill Wilkins terrorizing her mind, but that he dared to make her feel like she doesn’t belong with her friends, or around her very own kin. It’s a very unique way to discuss the power of love, and one that gets the message across, without being so cheesy that it can’t reach cynical viewers.

The only real complaint here is that the Warrens’ own daughter, who, if she has a name, this reporter didn’t catch it, is pretty much a useless character. She pops up once or twice, to give her parents a sleepy good morning kiss, and to point out a ghostly figure in the corner, but other than that, it seems like she really serves no purpose. It makes you wonder why they even bothered putting her in the film at all. It would’ve been nice to see a commentary started about the fact that the Warrens have to leave their own family at home to go and help out another one all the way across the pond, but instead, it just seems like this all but silent daughter only shows up to remind the audience that the real life Warrens did, in fact, have a child. It’s too bad, because it could’ve added another layer to their story, and made these paranormal investigators seem that much more relatable, but it’s not such a hindrance that it throws the story off to the point of being unenjoyable.

Aside from this one glaring issue, The Conjuring 2 is a terrific film. It’s a little long, but with a cast this spectacular and a story this moving, who cares? It’s an entertaining feature throughout, and, despite the fact that the ending is a very pleasing wrap up to the tale, leaves you wanting more – and hopefully, there will be. Wan seems comfortable turning all of his big hits into franchises, so it wouldn’t be that surprising if there were a third film announced at some point in the future. However, perhaps a much more likely event to occur is a James Wan-led Amityville spinoff feature. Considering the fact that the first Conjuring started out with a scene from the famous Annabelle case, and then that was turned into its very own solo film, it’s very feasible that because The Conjuring 2 begins with a scene from Amityville, New York, that we could see Wan displaying his take on the infamous case sometime soon. No matter what happens, one thing is certain, and that’s that Wan continues to be a master of horror, and the genre is very lucky to have him around.

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COMMENTS

47 Comments
  • Rean Addy

    you say that the daughter is a bit of a non-entity but what better way to introduce a character ready for the third film, a little bit can go a long way…

    • That’s what I was thinking. I’m sure it might seem off in this film but could pay off big if she’s to be a focal point in the next film.

      • Rean Addy

        exactly.

  • Mr. Screamer

    So excited for this movie!

  • Michael James

    Good to hear.

  • Saturn

    I haven’t disliked anything by Wan so far (I haven’t seen Fast 7 yet – but I hear people enjoy it) so I will go into this one expecting a decent movie.

  • Halloween_Vic

    Not surprised actually honestly, I like the first Insidious film a lot and I think The Conjuring is a great film, honestly those 2 have been the best paranormal films the past 8 years. The trailer for The Conjuring 2 convinced me that this was gonna be good already, but this review definitely sold me. I’m pretty stoked to check this one out, but I feel I won’t be disappointed and hopefully I’m right.

    • feck99

      basically agree. Horror films, which I love, are for the most part awful. I might find one I like every 2 years or so.

  • Steve Robertson

    You know whats interesting about this? SKY in the UK last year did The Enfield Haunting, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Enfield_Haunting, based on the same event, and to my knowledge, the Warrens are not even mentioned in that. Its based on Guy Lyon Playfairs book. Be interesting to see if he is mentioned in this version….

  • Jimmy Cthulhuhan

    Uh huh.

    • Creepshow

      Yup.

      • Vicente Garcia

        Ayuh.

  • Boypopproject

    The Warrens had nothing to do with assisting in the real case. They only had a brief encounter with this happening. Obviously very loosely based on the truth.

    • Tim Nuttall

      I hope a lot of liberties are taken because I’ve seen the Enfield story dramatised a couple of times before.

      • marklola12 .

        its all aload of made up bull so basically this movie is not based on anything that really happened at all

        • Tim Nuttall

          Well yes of course, it was a hoax, or a kid acting out, however there is a standard story as recounted by those involved and has been made into a couple of tv movies/series – I’m just hoping Wan only stuck to the broad outline.

  • James Wan is one of the best directors of last 16 years.

    • Creepshow

      Coming from the guy who says he hates more horror films than he likes.

      • marklola12 .

        and? maybe he does not like as much crap as u do lol

        • GarthD

          What part of your comment made you laugh out loud?

      • feck99

        Who doesn’t hate more horror films than they like? 98% of them are horrible! Ever go on Netflix and sift through their choices? I can rarely if ever find a good one. It’s rare that we get a decent horror flick, and IMO, the Conjuring and the first Insidious (not the second one) were two good examples.

        • Creepshow

          I meant (quality) movies that are discussed here. I should have clarified.

  • Tanner of Josh

    Saw it last night. Agree that it’s about 15 or so minutes, but god damn. That nun is TERRIFYING.

  • sliceanddice

    thought the first was one of the most boring films I’ve ever seen. Should i check this one out?

    • PsychoMantis18

      Judging from his body of work – probably not.

  • PsychoMantis18

    “A sleek and stylish director who can frighten even the most jaded horror fans, and tap into the heart of even the most cynical movie goers” – Wrong, wrong, and wrong.

    His films are bland and boring.

    • feck99

      You didn’t at least like the first half of Insidious? Second half was not as strong (though still good), but those first 45 minutes are some of the best horror film making I’ve ever seen.

      • PsychoMantis18

        Can’t agree with you on that one, sorry.

      • JeffCStevenson

        Totally agree and already posted that the first hour of INSIDIOUS (before the ghost hunters show up) was terrifying with near-perfect suspense. The last hour was a mess, as was the sequel and Part 3 was better than 2 but not by much.

  • Harbottle64

    The nun looks like Marilyn Manson! :oO

    Seriously, I remember the Enfield Haunting from the ’70s and how it made front page news in the UK. Looking forward to this film when it’s released over here.

  • Mehliens

    Moar crosses everywhere to make stuff spooky

  • first conjuring was one of the scariest films i have seen in years and was pleasantly surprised that the trailers hold back regarding potential jump scares. Any promo materials regarding the second chapter seemed a bit banal but hearing that is well made and scary, definitely will have a go next week here in Australia!

  • TheonetrueLee

    awesome. Can’t wait to see it.

  • AphroditeBoy

    Was not impressed by the first and his follow ups to Insidious were pretty awful, but this one does look to be pretty good judging from the subject matter and the trailers.

  • Blatta

    “…one thing is certain, and that’s that Wan continues to be a master of horror”. Enough to make me stop reading the rest of the review.

    • Zachary Brown

      Really? I dont get the hate. I thought Conjuring 2 was filled with scene after scene of nailbiting creativity. What movies do you consider scarier or superior? Not being an ass, i’m genuinely curious and will add them to my watchlist if I havent seen them already.

  • 2016?

    “Surpasses the first”, but you only give it 4 stars? Guess you didn’t think to much of the original?
    But you give “The Gallows” 4 stars and said it “revives found footage”. Oh wait I forgot you guys get paid to give bogus reviews. My god how on earth could anyone think you reviews are credible…

  • 2016?

    Geez get a hold of yourself there…its only movie, you’ll be ok ;P

    • JeffCStevenson

      LOL!

  • ShadowInc

    “Enter James Wan, master of suspense”
    Oh man, thanks for that hearty belly laugh, Kaylyn. That has to the funniest thing I’ve read in a while.

  • Daucus Karota

    I thought the first Conjuring was interesting although the last sequence was really too over the top. I actually preferred Annabelle as it kept things a little more subtle.

    For those that have seen this film, would you say it’s got more in common with the first Conjuring, or Annabelle, in terms of crazy screaming and tornados vs low-key creepiness?

    • JeffCStevenson

      Totally agree. The best part of The Conjuring was the “clap clap” scene but we had already seen that in the excellent trailer. The film itself was well made but I found Insidious to be much scarier (until the ghost busters showed up.) I think the first hour of Insidious is Wan’s greatest achievement.

  • Lucca Cantisano

    James Wan stopped being a good director after the first Insidious, now he’s a good money making machine. When I saw Insidious and Saw, I truly believed he’d turn the table around for horror, but I was wrong. The Conjuring, while well acted, decently written and well shot, was just a compilation of generic horror tropes done in a clean way to please snob people who don’t usually like horror films. It was a film way too scared of any transgression to actually get anywhere slightly interesting, and I doubt the second movie will get there.

  • Evan3

    As James Wan’s publicist, I formally request you stop dredging up Dead Silence – let it rest in the graveyard of forgotten horror lore and focus on my accomplishments.

    Seriously though, I am ecstatic to hear that you enjoyed this film.

  • JeffCStevenson

    I read his book THIS HOUSE IS HAUNTED and it is really dull. Not much happened. The girls would be in their room playing and then SCREAM and the adults would run in and the girl would say this or that happened. Very little “documented” and what was were things like, “She flew across the room as if thrown by a great force. She could have jumped off the bed but I can’t be certain…”

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