The Conjuring 2 review: James Wan hits the horror sweet spot again
James Wan rarely disappoints (yes, I'm looking at you Furious 7). Saw, Insidious and The Conjuring managed to bring something new to the tired horror genre and displayed his Midas touch when it comes to launching long-running horror film franchises.
In fact, 2013's The Conjuring - starring Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren - stands as the highest-grossing horror film of Wan's career, a tall order from a director with a growing list of success stories.
Luckily for Wan's fans, Conjuring 2 also stands a cut above the standard horror-movie sequel. Wan's eye for detail and confidence behind the camera aside, it's also anchored by a strong cast.
It's well crafted - much like it's predecessor - relentlessly terrifying and boasts characters you actually root for.
Ramping up the scares
Conjuring 2 explores one of the best-known cases that the real-life Warrens ever got involved with - London's "Enfield Poltergeist", aka "England's Amityville". The Amityville reference is explored in the prologue which is set at the notorious house from The Amityville Horror - another case that the Warrens were a part of.
But before they arrive, Wan painstakingly details British working-class life with gorgeous tracking shots that detail a family being plagued by and angry demon.
Basically, the Hodgson family - mom Peggy (Frances O'Connor), her two daughters and two sons - are living a nightmare in north London's Enfield borough. That's because young Janet (Madison Wolfe) has become the target of a spirit who claims the family is trespassing in his home. Worse, his violent outbursts are growing more intense by the day.
The local media begins to whip up comparisons to Amityville. That's when the Warrens arrive on the scene - they first need to find enough evidence to satisfy the Catholic church so that they may be allowed to do an exorcism).
The Warrens' own struggle with their faith and dealing with skeptics becomes a secondary plotline that eventually pays off in the third act.
Wan's craft at its peak
It's definitely a testament to the The Conjuring that the theatre was nearly full for the first show of the day.
But more than that, it's a testament to Wan - Stephen King's equivalent in the film world as a master of horror.
The director has mastered the ability to get his camera do terrifying tricks that are almost supernatural. It's always constantly gliding, tilting, and looking around for the mostunsettling sights. One scene involving a painting of a demonic nun truly offers a masterclass to genre filmmakers.
His ability to add a dash of humour to offer some relief also helps lift the movie - instead of just giving us one jump scare after the other.
Wan's villains in Conjuring 2 are absolutely haunting. He takes great care with the way they - Bill Wilkins (Bob Adrian) and the Demon Nun (Bonnie Aaron) - look, move and speak. And then he further enhances both with spot-on shot framing and camera movements.
Another sinister addition in Conjuring 2 is an entity known as The Crooked Man - a creature a lot like the urban legend that is Slender Man.
The movie's other big achievement is the chemistry between Farmiga and Wilson. Over the years, the two actors have gotten quite comfortable around one another as the zealous detectives of the unknown. Both are equally as committed to each other as they are to their work.
And Wolfe, as young Janet, is good enough to give some of the original scream queens like Jamie Lee Curtis, a run for their money.
There's a lot crammed into 134 minutes and not everything works perfectly. But is it scary? Hell, yes it is!
Hopefully, this will not be the last we see of the Warrens at work.