After dealing with a case in which a father murdered his entire family (a story which has been told in The Amityville Horror) the Warrens (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) decide to put the their demon vanquishing gloves on ice. However, they are drawn out of their sabbatical by a case in Enfield, England where a young girl is possessed by a demonic spirit.
When it comes to horror films James Wan isn’t exactly subtle, he’s certainly not from the less is more school of filmmaking. He’s very much a guy that likes the throw everything at the screen. Most horror films dial it up to 11 when the film approaches the conclusion, with The Conjuring 2 it doesn’t dial it up to 11 but to 11,000. For the majority of the film’s 132 minute running time the film is pretty damn intense with Wan’s clever use of tension and exposing the classic childhood fear of the dark. The issue is that the film spends most of time dialled up to 11 so when the film reaches its conclusion it’s not particularly gripping, it’s too ramped up to maximum levels of insanity that, eventually, it loses all semblance of restraint that it’s no longer scary.
That’s not to say Wan’s use of jump scares isn’t on the whole effective, but the film is at its best when it’s at its most restrained and creepy. The best example includes the superb use of framing and focus in the first scene where Ed Warren speaks to the demon inside the eleven year old. The scene brilliantly keeps you on edge, focusing on both Warren and what’s happening or may happen behind him. It’s a great scene where the film is subtle and the tension is high and with Ed’s back turned against the possessed victim it’s an unnerving experience. On the other hand, areas where the film is overbaked, such as the Crooked Man (whose effects are not convincing), are less effective.
Clocking in at just over 130 minutes the film is rather long for the type of film it is, some of the time is devoted to building the relationship between Ed and Lorraine Warren and developing the terrorised Hodgson family. This is done with satisfactory level of success with help from good performances from Madison Wolfe and both Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga but it’s very easy to forget that other than the stammering Bobby, the Hodgson family does have another son in the family (his name is Johnny as you’ve also probably forgotten he even existed). What isn’t well done is the subplot that addresses the accusations of fraud and fakery faced by the real Warrens. This subplot is so lazily discussed in the film, they needn’t have bothered.
The Conjuring 2 a good, handsomely designed film with effective camerawork that creeps slightly round the house brilliantly emphasising the fear of the dark, but it’s one where all restraint is lost and when this happens the film loses much of its effectiveness.