In a summer loaded with superhero blockbusters and effects-heavy action extravaganzas, horror currently rules the theaters. The Conjuring 2, a follow-up to its extremely successful predecessor of 2013, led the North American box office with $40.3 million, ahead of all major prognosticators (though not the Gore 4, who always have faith in the supernatural). This is barely a million less than the original, which is rather astounding in a year where sequels are consistently underperforming (see Allegiant, The Huntsman, Neighbors 2, Alice Through the Looking Glass) to say the least. This is all the more impressive in that The Conjuring 2, like the one before it, is an R-rated film, which can limit its teen audience, yet is welcomed by horror fans. The first The Conjuring opened to $41.5 million and went on to gross $137 million domestically and over $300 million worldwide, on a budget of only around $20 million. With good word-of-mouth based on its A- CinemaScore grade, this sequel could very well reach it’s precursor’s numbers. In addition, the film grossed over $50M overseas, with a number of top markets still to come.
The Conjuring films center on real life couple Ed and Lorraine Warren (played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga), a pair of paranormal investigators who aid families whose lives are being disrupted by disturbing ghostly activity. The fact that the sequel brings back its returning stars, along with director James Wan and the writing team of Chad and Carey Hayes, certainly are factors to the sequel’s success. And the powerful premise of a Mulder and Scully-like couple that uses its shared faith to combat evil is clearly tapping into audiences’ psyches. It’s also the rare horror franchise that follows the heroes from film to film, rather than the villains, ala Jason, Freddy or Michael Myers. It is a refreshing change of pace that is compelling audiences to theaters to be scared out of their seats. While no further follow-up has yet to be announced, there’s little doubt that another will be on the way, especially considering the number of actual cases the Warrens investigated to tap into for future films. And with The Shallows and Purge: Election Year soon to come, horror is alive and well at the movies this summer.