There’s a lot about The Conjuring 2, and its predecessor, that’s by-the-book. The “jump” scary moments are paced just like other modern horror films: a character enters a room, the camera loops around them and oh no! the ghost is right behind them. We get so many of these scenes you can almost time them.
In fairness, though, this is what contemporary audiences seem to be looking for when it comes to horror. A triumph like The Witch was all but booed at the screening I attended, from an audience disappointed by slow-burning terror and just wanted the adrenaline rush.
While I myself hate the “jump” moments (and so often fall victim to them), I admire The Conjuring 2 for its balance of throwaway scares (possibly to appease mainstream audiences?) with thoughtful story points and compelling themes.
Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga are back as paranormal investigator superheroes Ed and Lorraine Warren, whose core weapon against hauntings and demons is their own faith. As in the original Conjuring, this narrative element is treated very respectfully. The couple is grounded in their convictions and is fully equipped to take on anything, from their knowledge and belief in their faith to overcome the evils of the world.
And what evils they face. In this chapter, they take things to an international level and travel to England to help with the Enfield Poltergeist case. They’ve come to assist a family terrorized by moving objects, levitation, and even possession. The main victim of all this, 11-year-old Janet, is acted terrifically by Madison Wolfe, who convincingly embodies both a frightened, victimized young girl with a powerful, horrifying demon inside her.
In addition to “jump” scares galore, there’s some genuinely unnerving moments. Early in the film, Ed Warren paints an image he’s seen in a nightmare – the same demon that Lorraine has visions of. There’s a great scene where Lorraine enters the living room, with the lights out, and we see the face behind her – but is it the painting, or the demon, or both?
Getting technical, but I was also really impressed by the lighting. In many scenes, both day and night, the color palette felt out of a black-and-white movie. The images soaked in darkness, with pockets of light on select objects, backgrounds, and characters. This creates an effective unsettling mood, as you’re left to wonder what’s lurking in those dark spaces.
Some of the tactics employed by The Conjuring 2 aren’t anything groundbreaking, but its quality story and characters elevate it to a higher tier of contemporary horror films.