James Wan has cemented himself as one of the more impressive horror directors in mainstream American cinema. The Saw franchise as a whole may have swapped out chilling suspense for high octane gore but the first film of the series was an announcement that there was a new name in the horror game and he would be one to look out for. In the last decade he has created a new franchise in the reasonably successful Insidious, had a bit of a failure with the still occasionally chilling Dead Silence and directed the terrific The Conjuring in 2013, a haunted house film crafted with a menacing sense of control. It was his finest work as a director and he returns for the sequel which is based upon the events of the Enfield poltergeist in the late 70s.
As a general rule sequels are inferior to their predecessors, doubly so when applied to the horror genre. Cheap to produce and easy to market they are a lucrative business for smaller production companies. Wan’s previous film Saw spawned six sequels before eventually coming to an end, with more a whimper than a bang, and I can’t imagine that franchise will be gone forever. So is The Conjuring 2 another knock-off imitation of better movies? Thankfully not as with Wan’s slick visual eye at the helm The Conjuring 2 has plenty of chilling set pieces to keep the audience on edge, with the assistance of cinematographer Don Burgess’s gloomy atmospheric take on 1970’s Enfield, he has fun extorting the film’s period setting for all its cinematic worth. There are jumps a plenty, as Wan is like to do, and although it may not linger amongst your psyche as a truly disturbing horror film it’s astute craftsmanship makes it an admirable effort. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga return as real life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, both comfortably at home in the roles and bringing a charm and thoughtfulness to the couple in the midst of all the ghostly goings on. Youngster Madison Wolfe is brilliant as Janet, with so much of the film resting on her performance it was critical they had an actress up to the task and this girl’s has an abundance of talent and a bright future ahead of her.
There are some qualms with the film, mostly with its narrative structure and some plot contrivances, as well thought out and chilling as some of the haunting sequences are they eat away into the films runtime long before the Warren’s even make it to Enfield. Also there isn’t much in terms of surprise or uniqueness about the movie, except that it’s been very tightly crafted. So what you get is a poltergeist film, a couple of clichés, a somewhat forgettable finale and a rather swelled running time of 2hr 14mins, which you imagine would have been trimmed if the film wasn’t directed by a name director such as James Wan.
All in all it may not revolutionise the genre, it won’t haunt your psyche for weeks to come or stop you sleeping for a night or two but as a well-crafted poltergeist movie it matched its predecessor in quality and is an entertaining feature for casual watchers and horror aficionados alike.