How do you top the predecessor that made it so well the first time around, especially when it comes to a horror movie? Most horror sequels would typically follow the first movie’s tried-and-true formula or go big with their scare tactic. For James Wan, who made his much-anticipated comeback to his familiar horror root after a brief detour into the action-movie territory in last year’s Fast & Furious 7, opted to go both ways by delivering the same old-school approach that made the first Conjuring such a critical smash while cranking the shock factor up to eleven.
In this sequel to 2013’s surprise hit of The Conjuring, paranormal investigators Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) and Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson) are summoned to the Enfield borough in North London, where single mum Peggy Hodgson (Frances O’Connor) and her four children (Madison Wolfe, Lauren Esposito, Benjamin Haigh and Patrick McAuley) frequently find themselves being terrorised by a series of supernatural phenomena in their home.
With the help of cinematographer Don Burgess, Wan employs every visual trick he can think of to scare his viewers wherever he sees fit. From his signature tracking shot to dolly zoom and extreme close-up, Wan continues to prove himself he’s a master of old-school horror who knows his way around with nifty camerawork. And likewise, Joseph Bishara’s pulse-pounding score, as well as the loud sound effects to evoke a foreboding sense of dread, are put to good use for the most parts of the movie.
As for the cast, Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson continue to excel in their roles for the second time around. While Farmiga’s emotionally tense performance often steals the show like the first movie, Wilson has his few moments as well. In one particular scene, Wilson brings such a likeable charm to his character when he mimics Elvis’ signature voice and sings “Can’t Help Falling In Love” while strumming a guitar in front of the Hodgsons. Speaking of the Hodgsons, the two standout performances are Frances O’Connor and especially Madison Wolfe, who gives her all as the possessed daughter in the family.
For all the efforts that Wan has clearly tried to make a good horror movie in The Conjuring 2, the sequel still lacks the same intensity and simplicity that preceded the first movie. There are many times Wan relies too much on the repetitive jump scares that tend to grow thin after a while. Then there’s the visual execution of one Babadook-like evil character where the CG looks spotty and feels somewhat out of place for a classical-style horror movie like The Conjuring 2. Not to mention the 134 minutes running time of this sequel, which is 22 minutes longer than the first movie, is unnecessarily overlong and could have benefitted with a tighter pace.
Although The Conjuring 2 loses some of the first movie’s charm, this sequel remains a worthy addition to the franchise.