The Conjuring 2

The Conjuring 2

2016, R, 133 min. Directed by James Wan. Starring Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Frances O’Connor, Madison Wolfe, Lauren Esposito, Patrick McAuley, Benjamin Haigh, Simon McBurney, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Simon Delaney, Franka Potente.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., June 10, 2016

Based on the “real-life” Enfield Poltergeist that rattled Britain’s nerves from 1977 to 1979, James Wan’s follow-up to his 2013 husband-and-wife paranormal investigators creep-out, itself loosely based on the Amityville “horror,” arrives with a much larger budget and a lengthy profile piece and accompanying broody portrait in the Times, which begs the question “What does James Wan want?” Well, duh. Wan’s fans – and even those who aren’t so hot on the man behind the edgy goregasm Saw, Dead Silence, and two Insidious films – know all too well that Mr. Wan wants to give audiences 1970s-style spookshows, redolent of The Exorcist, Robert Wise’s underrated Audrey Rose, and similar disquieting fare. And to a large part, with The Conjuring 2, he succeeds. It’s a much subtler descent into the weird than the first film, which was burdened by a surfeit of hoary horror show tropes, among them slamming doors, shock cuts, and “gotchas” – graveyard gimcrackery that was old hat even when Wise used plenty of it in that great American haunted house story, The Haunting.

Refreshingly, there’s nary a cheap scare manifested in this Conjuring, although the unspoken corollary to that is that The Conjuring 2 just isn’t very scary, or even unnerving. And at over two hours long, it could easily shed 30 minutes or so and still feel bloated in psychical shop talk, if not in actual wraiths. (An aside: There’s a genuinely unnerving apparition decked out in a nun’s habit; the wicked, taboo-shattering genre sub-niche of “nunsploitation” hasn’t been revived as of yet, possibly because the current Pope seems so downright hip and with-it that one can almost visualize him cracking open a bottle of Trappist monk-brewed Westmalle Tripel and throwing School of the Holy Beast in an old Vatican VHS player. Probably not Ken Russell’s The Devils, though.)

Returning from exorcism round one are Wilson and Farmiga as ghost hunters Ed and Lorraine Warren. Semi-retired, they’re called back into action by the bedevilment of the Hodgson family. Harried and then horrified single mother Peggy (O’Connor, excellent) suspects a poltergeist when her preteen daughter Janet (Wolfe) begins levitating, foaming at the mouth, and then speaking in the raspy, vulgar voice of someone – or more likely something – that says it was the grotty council flat’s previous, now deceased tenant. The Warrens, a Catholic priest, and a television news team embark on getting to the bottom of all this unearthly tommyrot, but it’s Lorraine who finally figures out what’s actually going on.

Wan regular Joseph Bishara helps the proceedings immensely with a restless and occasionally appropriately jarring score that, on the whole, is more ominous than anything else in the film. While The Conjuring 2 is clearly on a slow burn, the final 10 minutes ramp things up to an unholy – and wholly unbelievable and contrived – degree, effectively canceling out the less histrionic and thus more effective sense of chilly unease of all that came before. Fie. Next up for Wan is the DC Comics' Justice League lead-up, Aquaman. One can only hope there’ll be no creaky phantasms 20,000 leagues under the sea.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More James Wan Films
Homage to giallo is fun, but is it good?

Jenny Nulf, Sept. 17, 2021

The underwater superhero brings long-awaited color to DC's films

Matthew Monagle, Dec. 21, 2018

More by Marc Savlov
Remembering James “Prince” Hughes, Atomic City Owner and Austin Punk Luminary
Remembering James “Prince” Hughes, Atomic City Owner and Austin Punk Luminary
The Prince is dead, long live the Prince

Aug. 7, 2022

Green Ghost and the Masters of the Stone
Texas-made luchadores-meets-wire fu playful adventure

April 29, 2022


The Conjuring 2, James Wan, Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Frances O’Connor, Madison Wolfe, Lauren Esposito, Patrick McAuley, Benjamin Haigh, Simon McBurney, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Simon Delaney, Franka Potente

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle