Director: James Wan
Starring: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Frances O’Connor, Madison Wolfe, Simon McBurney, Franke Potente, Lauren Esposito
Run Time: 134 mins
‘The Conjuring 2’ is the highly anticipated sequel to the 2013 original that breathed new life into the horror genre and boosted James Wan’s status as a director. What the original did so well was it used well-established concepts of horror (some may argue clichés) but Wan was still able to create a frightening, intense film that also featured a wonderful cast. It was one of my favourite films of 2013. Whilst many had assumed ‘Insidious: Chapter 2’ (another great franchise that Wan has created) was the director’s swansong after moving on to the big-budget action sequel ‘Furious 7’, Wan has returned to direct the sequel to arguably his most well-recieved film before moving on to tackling the DC comic book superhero, ‘Aquaman’. Moving away from Rhode Island where the Perron family were terrorised by supernatural forces, ‘The Conjuring 2’ is set in Enfield in London where this time the Hodgson family require help from the Warrens, the famous paranormal investigators that this franchise is circled around.
‘The Conjuring 2’ isn’t as strong as its predecessor – it is overlong which severely impacts the pacing and just isn’t quite as interesting a story as the first one was. However, Wan delivers in spades on the scare-front and the film has some truly frightening sequences and also there are some great performances from the cast. Only Wan could have made or been given permission to make this film as 134 minutes for a horror film is uncommonly long and whilst there is a lot of character development (and self-indulgence), 20 minutes could fairly easily have been chopped off and the film would almost be as strong as the original. This is definitely its main problem which is to its detriment and the film does bear many similarities to William Friedkin’s, ‘The Exorcist’ and there are a couple of moments where the film leaves a bit of a sour taste as it reiterates many of the clichéd elements of superior horror films. Whilst this all may sound negative, it isn’t – coming off a near-perfect original was always going to be impossible and whilst this is still a strong film, it does have its fair share of problems.
The cast here are great again – both Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson give very assured performances but it’s the new additions to the cast that really get a chance to shine. The standout is Madison Wolfe who plays the possessed victim, Janet Hodgson to a tee – I only found out afterwards that she is in fact, American which is testament to her authentic performance and I hope she will get a lot of work due to the strength of her performance here. Frances O’Connor, who plays the desperate and genuinely terrified mother of the Hodgson family is also very good here as is Simon McBurney who plays a fellow paranormal investigator, Maurice Grosse although his performance is a little hammy but it adds to the fun and excitement.
As with its predecessor, ‘The Conjuring 2’ is also based on what is supposedly a true story – the film doesn’t try and argue why it is but I would take the story with a pinch of salt. For example, the Warren’s in fact had only been two of many paranormal investigators and it would seem as if many of the events in the film have been dramatised. The story is strong and has a nice twist in its final act, but the film does bear a lot of similarities to ‘The Exorcist’. Whilst in ‘The Conjuring’, Wan was able to build upon existing codes and conventions of the horror genre, he does do so here too but here the similarities are a little too apparent and lessen the impact of the story the film it is trying to tell. The script is a little clunky in places unfortunately and characters such as the Warren’s daughter, Judy and cameraman Drew from the first film are sidelined which is a shame. Don Burgess takes over on cinematography duties from John R. Leonetti’s sterling work on the first film and he does an admirable job – there are a couple of really creepy and atmospheric shots but unfortunately without loses some originality from Leonetti’s work. Joseph Bishara’s score is very good here and he blends old themes with some new ones here to make the film refreshing.
Although ‘The Conjuring 2’ ultimately is a little disappointing coming off the near-perfect original, it still serves a lot of spine-tingling sequences in conjunction with its great cast. James Wan has clearly shown that he has a masterful understanding of the horror genre even if the film does slide into convention at times. However, the fact remains that the film is overlong and it is to the film’s detriment as at times, it really does sidle along and there are too many ‘filler’ scenes that enhance the film’s length for no added purpose. However as a horror sequel, ‘The Conjuring 2’ is a very strong and for all its shortcomings, is ultimately a very scary film that successfully expands on the groundwork of the first film.