Director James Wan hardly disappoints.
That’s why it’s no surprise he’s got two movies on our 31 Days of Halloween list. Sequels don’t often outshine their first installments, but with Wan behind the wheel, it’s a different story. That’s why today’s selection, The Conjuring 2, is quite worthy of its spot.
First, let’s review a little backstory. The Conjuring 2 centers around the infamous married demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren. You may know of them from their most famous case, The Amityville Horror – the 1976 violent haunting and possession in New York, which spawned two movie adaptations in 1979 and 2005. If that doesn’t ring a bell, perhaps you’ve heard of a few of their other investigations:
• Annabelle – (1970) A haunted Raggedy Ann doll that resides in a box inside the Warren’s occult museum in Monroe, Connecticut. Annabelle inspired the 2014 movie of the same name.
• The Perron Family – (1971) The family’s Harrisville, Rhode Island home and land was haunted and cursed by a 19th century witch. Inspired The Conjuring film released in 2013.
• The Snedeker House – (1986) A former funeral home infested with demons. Inspiration for the movie The Haunting in Connecticut from 2009.
While often publicly ridiculed for being fakes, Ed and Lorraine Warren’s collection of testimonies, records, and personal accounts will have you second guessing. That doubt, that off-chance of truth, is what sucks you in. It’s what makes their stories, and our spotlight film, The Conjuring 2, so unnerving.
The Conjuring 2 takes place after the Amityville investigation. It is based on the 1977 – 1979 accounts of Peggy Hodgson and her two daughters, and the Warren’s encounter with the Enfield poltergeist in Brimsdown, Enfield, England. Lorraine and Ed Warren are tired. They sense the toll the demonic interactions are having on their lives and want nothing more to do with it, especially after the violence of their previous case. We see a glimpse of this in the opening scene, which sets the dark, ominous tone for the rest of the movie.
The Warrens are about ready to give up their day job, when the Hodgsons’ story reaches them from England. The local church pleads with the Warrens to just observe and provide an opinion, nothing more. Meanwhile, Lorraine has premonitions of Ed’s death preceded by a fleeting vision of a demonic nun. Fearful of the visions, Lorraine tries to discourage the trip, hints of death looming. Once they hear a tape recording of what sounds like an old man with emphysema, and realize it’s actually an 11-year-old girl, they reconsider, and reluctantly travel oversees to check it out.
From here, The Conjuring 2 is bold, as is its antagonist. The demon nun lurks in the shadows, then strolls the hallway in plain sight. Furniture is flung across the room and beds are shaken for everyone to see. Fables and children’s games are transformed into terrors (the crooked man song, ugh… chills), all the while the pains of real life, such as poverty and bullying, are weighing heavily on the family affected. Lorraine struggles to separate what’s happening in her trances from what the family is truly experiencing. Could the rest of the abnormal circumstances just be an elaborate hoax? Perhaps a desperate family’s cry for attention?
The Conjuring 2 is suspenseful and frightening until the very end, and a perfect portrayal of a poor, single-mom’s struggle with a demon-posessed, haunted little girl. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga deliver chilling performances of one of the Warrens’ most life-threatening cases, but also humanize their characters by having a simple conversation with the possessed girl outside on a swing or gathering the family around to play the guitar and sing some Elvis for a moment of reprieve. The Warren’s are kind people and that matters. If you haven’t seen The Conjuring, that’s ok. They are different cases entirely. Both are terrifying, but this one, The Conjuring 2, will get under your skin and stay there… just in time for Halloween.