Lorraine and Ed Warren travel to north London to help a single mother raising four children alone in a house plagued by a malicious spirit.
Director: James Wan
Starring: Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Madison Wolfe, Frances O’Connor, Lauren Esposito, Benjamin Haigh
Rated: R (terror and horror violence)
The Conjuring 2
By Matt Greene
James Wan, perhaps the premiere modern horror director (“Saw,” “Insidious”), makes graphically regal films that often exceed the genre’s visual conventions. His popular “Conjuring” films give him the opportunity to show that skill. With gorgeous period-piece settings, the general warmness to the coloring works as a nice counterpoint to the scares. While this newest entry doesn’t quite sidestep all of the clichés in modern horror (giggling children, creepy toys, red herring scares), it does askew some. The just-brainy-enough storytelling mixed with the super strong direction make it a distinctly solid studio horror trip.
Based on “true events,” we find paranormal investigators Lorraine and Ed Warren traveling to the UK to study a peculiar and sinister haunting of a young, single-parent family. Along the way, some plot conveniences and illogical creature rules haunt the proceedings. Luckily, these are overshadowed by some fantastically creepy monster designs, including a boldly sadistic nun-figure and a terrifying rendition of the “Crooked Man” nursery rhyme, all underscored by effectively cool music and sound design.
By now, Wan has proven he knows what he’s doing in the scare department. However, some surprisingly adept humor cuts through the horrific drama, allowing the themes of family and dangerous commitment to shine through. But what really makes the whole thing work are the people. In spite of the few plotting flaws, in the center of the story are characters you wanna root for. They are funny, loving, sympathetic and real; they are human-feeling people who make human-feeling decisions. With this beautiful control over tone and character, Wan feels only a step away from making a true masterpiece. Until then, this will more than do.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
The Conjuring 2
By Cole Schneider
Is there any Hollywood cliché quite as guaranteed to force an eye-roll as the horror-sequel? “The Conjuring 2” has no business working at all, but instead it takes all the workings from its predecessor and reheats that cold dish into something even more potent. “C2” makes no reservations about dipping into horror-clichés, but places them within the framework of a macabre drama. “C2” is more Neil Gaiman than Rob Zombie, favoring characters over scares, themes over jumps, and drama over dread, yet indulging heavily in each.
The cast is as good as they can be, and because the script gives them so much breathing room they are indeed able to be very, very good. We develop a genuine empathy for these characters, which developed into two mid-movie ovations from the crowd I saw “C2” with. Director James Wan uses long takes and a meandering camera to both chill and reveal, and while none of the scares developed by these visuals make one jump from their seat, their cumulative effect is dreadful.
Wan and his screenwriters mix genres — horror, documentary, drama, mystery, romance, fantasy, history, and eventually thriller — with such effectiveness and introduce new characters and setting with such precision that the sequel becomes a more cinematically engaged piece of film than the first. Add a dash of socio-economic commentary on Thatcher-era England and a heavy dose of Christmas redemption (why wasn’t it a December release?!) and “C2” is about as good as we can ever hope a studio horror sequel to be.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars