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Conjuring 2, The
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Boo! Redux"
2 stars

When “The Conjuring” debuted in 2013, it proved to be that rarest of beasts—a horror film from a major studio that was not only a sensationally effective spook show that both critics and audiences could embrace wholeheartedly but one that, thanks to its ingenious conceit, could be transformed into a full-on franchise without necessarily repeating the stuff that worked the first time around. As a result, even though this summer’s movie derby has already proven to be fairly unkind to sequels, audiences may walk into “The Conjuring 2” with something resembling genuine enthusiasm (especially if they managed to avoid “Annabelle,” the terrible 2014 quickie spinoff that has already been forgotten in most sensible quarters. What they will uncover, however, is a film that, while made with undeniable skill and filled with performances that are about as good as one could possible ask for under the circumstance, just doesn’t bring anything new or interesting to the genre and which is further hampered by an extended running time that it never quite manages to justify,

Once again, the film is inspired by the case files of famous paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farming) and the prologue involves what is by far their most famous case, their investigation into whether the infamous Amityville Horror house was truly haunted or if the Lutz family made the whole thing up as part of an absurdly complex plot to meet James Brolin. While performing a seance, Lorraine first envisions the murders of an entire family by one of their own that occurred before the Lutzes moved in (in other words, if the only thing keeping you from watching “Amityville II: The Possession” was the presence of Burt Young, your prayers have finally been answered) and then stumbles upon the evil force that seems to have inspired it, a foul demon that takes the form of a more-cadaverous-than-usual nun and which offers her a glimpse of Ed’s untimely and quite messy demise. Lorraine is so haunted by this vision that she insists that she and Ed stop doing consultations but even when they limit themselves to lectures and TV appearances, there are still tubby little nerds accusing them of being frauds, charlatans and roguesters.

Meanwhile, across the pond in north London, the Hodgson family—single mother Peggy (Frances O’Connor), eldest daughter Margaret (Lauren Esposito), tween Janet (Madison Wolfe) and younger brothers Johnny (Patrick McAuley) and Billy (Benjamin Haigh)—is already struggling to get by in the wake of the husband/father leaving them for another woman when strange things begin happening to them inside their rambling, run-down flat—doors slam, furniture moves seemingly of its own accord and what appears to be the spirit of an old man pops up from time to time to insist that the house is really his and that they are trespassing. The attacks grow more frequent and violent and also begin to focus largely on Janet and when it appears that the girl has been possessed by the spirit of the old man, the Warrens are asked to come over and investigate whether their claims are real or not. Along with a couple of local observers—one (Simon McBurney) who has his own personal reasons for hoping that the spirits are real and one (Franka Potente) who is a professional skeptic who seems prepared to deny the existence of everything—the Warrens arrive and, armed with their religious faith and their state-of-the-art (circa 1977) equipment, try to get to the bottom of things and discover that the evil on hand this time is far more powerful than even they could have imagined.

The first “The Conjuring” was not exactly an original film by any stretch of the imagination but it was done so well and threw enough quirks into the formula, such as emphasizing the gentle evangelical spirit of the Warrens that was the element that drove them to go out and confront all manner of evil spirits, so that it felt a little fresher than it probably was. Outside of relocating the action to England, where the spirits are all the more terrifying since they scare people on the wrong side of the street, this film doesn’t really bring much of anything new to the spook party. I admit that I am not very familiar with the particulars of the actual case but as recounted here, it seems to have been little more than a compendium of cliches taken straight out of the likes of “The Haunting,” “The Exorcist,” “Poltergeist,” to name but a few of the most obvious sources. Unlike the previous film, where we actually liked both the Warrens and the family that was being haunted, there isn’t anyone here to develop much of an interest in—the Warrens are bland bores this time around while the haunted family, who come across like refugees from a lesser Mike Leigh film, are such non-entities that the ghosts end up having a stronger screen presence than they do. Another flaw is that, at 133 minutes, it goes on a little too long for what is not exactly the most complex of narratives (that is only 11 minutes shorter than “The Shining,” for example) , especially egregious since there are several scenes—such as the strained attempts to tie the horrors of this film into events from the first film and unnecessary scenes such as the one where Ed Warren leads the haunted kids in a tune from the Elvis Presley songbook.

The film was directed by James Wan, who also did the original, and he does as much as he possibly can with the material. Like too many horror films of late, it relies a little too much on simply shocking viewers by having something suddenly popping out at them than in creating suspense by slowly building and maintaining a sense of tension, but Wan is more effective than most at pulling off that sort of thing and when he does get a chance to do something that requires a little more of a slow burn, such as a long bit where Janet is strapped to a particularly meaningful chair and just out of focus transforms into something else, the results are impressive. The problem is that having previously directed such films as “Dead Silence,” the first “Conjuring,” “Insidious” and “Insidious Part 2,” Wan has pretty much done everything that he possibly can involving slamming doors, creaking floorboard, demonic possession and the like. Faced with dealing with the same basic cliches for a fifth time, Wan does little more than ransack his increasingly depleted bag of tricks with all the energy and flair of someone who is clearly going through the motions. Once it was decided to do this particular story instead of one that would not come across as so similar to the first “The Conjuring,” a different director probably should have been brought in as a way to give the material a new stylistic approach that might have given it just the dose of juice that it so desperately needs.

“The Conjuring 2” isn’t terrible by any means—it is reasonably well-made and the performances by Wilson and Farmiga are as good as can be, especially considering that they have lesser characters to play this time around. The problem is that, much like the family at its center, it is a construction that has far too many spirits of previous horror films hovering over the proceedings for its own good—the type of ghost story that is more familiar that filled with familiars. For those who just want a few cheap scares and nothing more, I suppose that it sort of satisfies on that basic level but those looking for some truly memorable frights—the kind that “The Conjuring” provided in spade—are advised to look elsewhere.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=27475&reviewer=389
originally posted: 06/09/16 16:34:39
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User Comments

2/12/17 morris campbell good sequel not as scary as the first but worth a look 4 stars
9/01/16 Langano Lost interest early. 2 stars
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  10-Jun-2016 (R)
  DVD: 13-Sep-2016


  DVD: 13-Sep-2016

Directed by
  James Wan

Written by
  Carey Hayes
  Chad Hayes

  Vera Farmiga
  Patrick Wilson

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