June 14, 2016
"The Conjuring" (2013) was one of the best horror films in recent memory. (My full review was posted HERE.) It told of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren helping the Perron family of Rhode Island with the spirit that haunted their farmhouse. It was a story formula that perfectly lent itself to possible sequels, and now, just three years later, here is the first one.
The setting was 1977 in a simple townhouse in the borough of Enfield in London, England, where the Hodgson family (mom Peggy and her four children) lived. The second daughter Janet was seemingly being possessed by the malevolent spirit of Bill Wilkins, the previous owner of the house. The church of their community sought the help of Ed and Lorraine Warren to investigate the case and help free the poor family from their ghostly tormentor.
There were so many parallelisms between the first Conjuring movie and this one in terms of story outline. Ed and Lorraine were investigating the Amityville Horror House, while the London incident was happening. The central victim family also had a distraught mother with four young vulnerable children. Eventually, the Warrens get called in to help get rid of the demons, at great peril to their own lives. It was good to revisit the Warren's museum and seeing its prize exhibit Annabelle again.
If there was anything cheesy about it, I'd say it would be every time a CG demon was shown for a prolonged period of time. There was one prolonged scene where Lorraine was being taunted by a female demon dressed like a nun. While the ominous buildup to an attack was very suspensefully edited, it ended in a rather hilarious manner which made me laugh. There were many horror movie cliches as well, like people approaching a ghost they see, instead of running away from it. It is crazy why they do that. (But then again, we probably won't have a horror movie if they don't.)
Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga were credible as Ed and Lorraine, as they vacillated between faith and skepticism in this case. For one remarkable scene, we get to see Wilson play the guitar and sing an Elvis love song in full. This is the first time I've heard him sing since his turn as Raoul in the film version of "Phantom of the Opera." Farmiga was really very good playing a medium going in and out of her eerie visions, without the excessive hamminess lesser actresses may resort to. Young Madison Wolfe gave an affecting performance as the possessed girl Janet.
Director James Wan is really an expert in the jump scare. We still get startled every time the demonic face was shown in a flash with a loud sound cue, even if we expect it. This one felt like a combination of various story elements from "The Exorcist", "Insidious", "Sinister," "Drag Me to Hell," yet executed in its own novel way. The first "Conjuring" had this memorably crazy game called "Hide and Clap" which provided some really spine-tingling scary moments. This sequel did not exactly have something distinctly its own, but the creeps were mostly still there. 7/10.