Lina Lamont

"What do you think I am, dumb or something?"

The Conjuring 2

This review first appeared in the Sunday Star-Times, June 2016

I admit to not being a massive fan of horror movies, but this is largely because I can’t handle the tension and I don’t want to have disturbing pictures seared into my brain for inconvenient flashbacks during that middle-of-the-night dash to the toilet.

So I suppose the fact that The Conjuring 2 didn’t scare me even a quarter to death probably means it’s a less-than-effective example of the genre. That said, director James Wan’s latest foray into smart, un-slashy, horror does make for an often intriguing, indisputably sincere and mostly well-produced sequel.

Purveyors of the previous Conjuring will know that the movies’ stories retell the real-life experiences of a couple, Lorraine and Ed Warren, who were famously called to solve paranormal mysteries during the 1970s and 80s (Lorraine is still alive, aged 89, and acts as consultant on the films). Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson reprise their roles and pay tribute to the Warrens by avoiding any opportunity to mock or send up either their earnest Catholic beliefs or their patent love for one another. To this end, The Conjuring 2 works hard to ground us in truth and, in doing so, gathers its audience close for an often eerie, occasionally horrifying, hug.

This sequel is set in North London, replete with pasty-faced kids with pommy accents and incessant rain, where the true tale of the Enfield Poltergeist unfolded in 1977. Although Wan ensures everything from the wallpaper to the children’s toys reeks of miserable, working class Britain, the feeling of its being a set somehow dilutes the fear factor. However, his trademark tracking shots are fascinating and immersive, and mark him out as a filmmaker of intelligence.

OK, so I said I wasn’t scared; truth be told, while the culprit at the heart of the main story rather loses his power to horrify as soon as his backstory is revealed, the other plot thread’s demon is genuinely terrifying, with its alarming resemblance to Marilyn Manson. Overlong but well-paced and involved, The Conjuring 2 won’t supplant A Nightmare on Elm Street in my dreams but it’s bound to satisfy its loyal fans.

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