Sunday , 20 August 2017

Conjuring 2 surpasses frightful first film – review

“Sometimes you need to make a leap of faith. Believe when no one else will.”

Conjuring 2 - Janet

The Conjuring 2 is that uncommon sequel, in horror or any other genre, that surpasses its original in just about every facet. While the first Conjuring was quite effective in creating an eerie tale that frightened audiences the world over, its sequel grabs you from the get go, turns you upside down, rattles and shakes you, and never lets go ’till the chilling end. And like its predecessor, it’s all the more hair-raising knowing it is based on a true story.

In the first The Conjuring, moviegoers were introduced to Ed and Lorraine Warren, a husband and wife team of paranormal investigators, or ‘Consultants of Demonology and Witchcraft.’ Ed was the more scientific of the two, though able to perform exorcisms, while Lorraine had the gift of clairvoyance, which enabled her to sense otherworldly presences in the vicinity. Together, along with their devout Christian faith, they were able to help a family in Rhode Island with five daughters, whose lives were being torn apart by a spiteful spirit.

“This is my house….get out now!!!”

Conjuring 2 - Warrens

In The Conjuring 2, the Warrens travel across the pond to London, England, where a single mother is struggling to raise her two girls and two sons, made even more difficult by the fact that a malevolent spirit is inhabiting their home and causing all manner of disturbances. Larraine Warren has been having terrifying visions of her own involving a demonic nun and a portent of impending death, and is reluctant to take on any more cases. But Ed convinces her they need to help this family, and Larraine acquiesces, if he promises they’ll only act as observers. Of course, once they get there, and the poltergeist activity becomes more and more aggressive, they are once again drawn in and must use their wits, their belief in God and their devotion to each other if they are going to aid this family and survive themselves.

When the The Conjuring opened in July of 2013, it was an instant box office hit, grossing over $40 million its first weekend in North America on its way to a total of $137M domestic and over $318M worldwide, on a budget of only $20M (excluding advertising). (The Conjuring 2 has also opened north of $40M stateside – see The Conjuring 2 scares up big numbers) The filmmakers are clearly onto something here, and the same creative team behind the first one is back again – director James Wan, twins Chad and Carey Hayes, sharing screenplay duties with Wan and David Leslie Johnson, and stars Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as the Warrens. The marketing by New Line and Warner Brothers promotes the fact that this is based on a true story, and even uses an actual recording from the case in some of its TV spots. This makes the film more enticing knowing that it really happened (unless you’re a skeptic and believe it was all a hoax) and already has you bit scared before even entering the theater. Though, like its predecessor, the film is rated “R”, there is no language, no sex or nudity, and only a minimum of blood. As it received its rating for “Terror and Horror Violence,” it is the overall chilling tone which apparently the MPAA has deemed to much for the young or faint of heart.

“I like to hear them scream.”

Conjuring 2 - ghost

Once again, Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga are outstanding as Ed and Larraine Warren. Both are more familiar to audiences with Wilson coming off a stellar second season of FX’s Fargo, and Farmiga completing another season of Emmy-worthy work on A&E’s Bates Motel. Here, they are the audience’s conduit to the extraordinary proceedings, the couple “God brought together for a reason.” They allow their faith to guide them, and their love for each other to give them the strength to confront such otherworldly forces, and it is this powerful bond they share that allows the audience to go along with them. Another factor that makes these films so irresistible is depicting a family with innocent, young children being devastated by angry, destructive forces. It’s one thing to rock chairs and move things around, quite another to leave bite marks and cuts and bruises. When youngest daughter, Janet, who is seeing the brunt of the malicious activity, eventually opens up to Larraine in a very touching scene, she explains how tired and alone she feels. One can’t help but be moved and have compassion for this poor child and what she’s going through. And it should be noted that young Madison Wolfe is utterly convincing and absolutely standout as Janet, doing her best Linda Blair and then some. All the kids are great and Francis O’Connor is also terrific as the harried mom, Peggy Hodgson.

“This is as close to Hell as I ever want to get.”

The-Conjuring-2 -Vera and Nun

The Conjuring is proving to be horror’s newest and most reliable franchise. Because the films are based on actual cases investigated by the Warrens, there are no shortage of stories to draw upon. While this, The Enfield Poltergeist, may have been the most widely investigated case of paranormal activity in history, the Warrens’ most notorious case is also touched upon here, that of a house in the quaint suburban neighborhood of Amityville, Long Island. As this particular haunting, and murders, has already been thoroughly explored in a number of films (with the delayed Amityville: The Awakening now due next January), we probably won’t see an entire Conjuring franchise film (and the producers may not have the rights), but it was welcome, and necessary, to see it brought up as it is the Warrens’ most famous case. We do get to see the horrifying demonic nun for the first time, and a spinoff film featuring this evil entity has already been greenlit. Add in the offshoot, 2014’s Annabelle, based on a possessed doll in the Warrens’ special ‘artifacts room’, the success of which is bringing a sequel for 2017, and you have a strong series that should keep audiences terrified for years to come.

— review by Brian de Castro

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