The Conjuring 2 – LA Film Fest Review

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After the tremendous pressure that came from Fast 7, James Wan decided to go back to the genre that has defined his career: Horror. This time, Wan has decided to put on the big screen the “most documented supernatural cases in history.” But does the infamous Enfield Haunting bring the horror maestro back to form or does the film falter?

James Wan not only returns but The Conjuring 2 is one of those rare sequels where it is just as good as the original, if not better. Wan’s nightmare vision of the infamous Enfield poltergeist delivers the horror on a multitude of levels.

The Conjuring 2 follows famed ghost hunters, Ed and Lorraine Warren, as they travel to England to take on one of their most unsettling cases: The Enfield Haunting. There, they meet Peggy Hodgson, an overwhelmed single mother of four who tells the couple that something demonic has taken hold of her daughter, Janet. As the Warrens try to help the tormented girl, they find out that someone more sinister is hiding in the background.

James Wan has grown creatively as a director since his early days directing Saw. He has a firm understanding of the genre and it definitely shows in the way that he cleverly avoids many of the horror tropes. With The Conjuring 2, Wan shows that he has plenty of new tricks in his already large bag. One of the newer tricks he’s employing is the relationship between light and shadows. He plays with the lighting in such a way that he heightens the anxiety during the day and night — avoiding the stereotype that our heroes are seemingly safe during the day.

Also, Wan and his cinematographer, Don Burgess, creates scares using a wide variety of depth of field techniques including deep-focus and shallow focus shots. And as is the case with any horror maestro, the sound design of the film is incredibly nuanced as well. Altogether, the cinematography, lighting, and sound design enhance the many eerie moments in the film. It’s clear that he has horror filmmaking down to a science and exactly knows what psychological buttons to push.

Wan also understands not every setup has to end with a jump scare, and not every scene has to hold the single-minded purpose of scaring you. The film is not your conventional horror film by any means. The film does scare you but it surprisingly has a lot of heart and laughs. There are plenty of sentimental moments to make you tear up and a lot of humorous moments to put a smile on your face.

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Much like the original, The Conjuring 2 closely follows the lives of the Hodgson family. Unfortunately at a hefty 2 hours and 13 minutes long, the film does drag at times. There are various scenes in the film that are longer-than-necessary and it will take some time before the drawn-out introduction sets the film’s wheels in motion.

Also, The Conjuring 2 focuses heavily on the hoax angle of the “Enfield Haunting,” which further adds to its considerable runtime. Even today, there a very vocal committee of pundits who thought the Hodgsons were faking the whole thing, with Anita Gregory (Franka Potente) being a major proponent of the hoax theory. It’s nice that they put it in the film, but it focused a bit too much on it. Besides, we already figured out which side of the argument the film will choose anyways.

But what makes The Conjuring 2 is the authentic performances from the entire cast. Farmiga and Wilson continue where they left off from the first film, both offering a warm, lived-in vibe to their performance. The duo also continues the heart-warming romantic bond between the Warrens, which helps you fall in love with them as much as you end up falling for the entire Hodgson family.

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The biggest standout performance comes from young Madison Wolfe. For such a young actress, she provides a wide range of emotions including happiness, sadness, anger, and, of course, fear. The role is definitely demanding but Wolfe seems to let go of her reservations and gets after it. It’s why Janet Hodgson is instantly a sympathetic character. Frances O’Connor is another noteworthy performance as she gives it her absolute all as Peggy Hodgson. She ferociously defends her kids against the demonic presence and then collapses at her helplessness against the entity. It’s a believable fierce performance that one can expect from a loving, single mother. Honestly, there were no weak links in the entire cast, only standout performances.

Despite its long runtime, The Conjuring 2 is the type of horror film that harkens back to the glory days of The Exorcist and The Omen. It’s a classy film that only genuine craftsman like James Wan can make a familiar premise feel fresh again. Not to mention it’s scary as hell.

Rating: 4/5 atoms
4-Atoms

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