There’s a reason why James Wan is widely considered as the doyen of modern horror filmmaking. The way he constructs his jump scares, and the skill with which he builds up the anticipation towards the scares is unmatched. The Insidious movies and the original The Conjuring were a great demo of both those qualities, and The Conjuring 2 is a nice little reminder that Wan is better off making these horror films rather than Fast and Furious sequels.
The Conjuring 2 follows the exact same formula of the three Insidious movies, Annabelle and the first Conjuring. A large house is infested with some sort of ghostly entity, things keep going bump in the night, and the kids in the house are consistently petrified. If you’re in the market for some more of that formula, this movie is going to be a blast of entertainment.
Wan shifts the story this time to London where a single mother (Frances O Connor) and her kids are terrorised by something inhuman creeping in the shadows of the house. Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) and Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson) are once again called to investigate the matter when the police and the doctors (hilariously) fail to explain the phenomenon. What follows are the usual set of elements — the Lorrains discover the malevolent entity and try, at great personal risk, to get rid of it.
The jump scares in the movie are just pure torture, in a really fun way. As the camera wafts over the dark corners of the house, with Joseph Bishara’s spine chilling music, your central nervous system is gone for a toss. The great thing about this film is that Wan spends one whole hour of hair-raising scares within the house before the Warrens are called to investigate. That means each of the three kids in the house is greeted by the ghostly entity in different, twisted ways.
And since the ghost literally says he likes to scare kids, there’s a whole sandbox of scares at play. One scene in a kids’ tent makes the hair on the back of your neck stand, but one scene involving an eerie nurse staring through a painting is an absolute classic.
This flipside to all this is that The Conjuring 2 does feel like Wan has made the same film for the fifth time now. There’s no denying the predictability of all this, and you can see the ending coming from a mile away. The reveal of what the ghost in the house is feels anticlimactic, and there’s little that seems at stake when the Warrens eventually begin to fight the ghost.
The film attempts to compensate for its clichéd elements by telling the audience that it is based on real life incidents, but this marketing gimmick has been stale for quite a while now. The film credits four different writers but I presume they were responsible more for writing in the scares rather than a good story. The only way for the supremely talented Wan to bypass John Carpenter levels of horror greatness is if he attempts horror movies with better stories. For now this is simply an entertaining date movie, and a surprisingly good horror sequel entry. Carry an extra pair of underwear to the theaters and unpack them when the scene with the painting begins.