It’s a rare thing these days to come across a genuinely good horror film. This is, of course, depending on what you classify as good. Too often do we see an ‘all ahh and no tchoo’ moment, as I like to call them, with the intense build up succeeded only by the sudden flash of credits, leaving the audience wondering where the hell the ending is. Other times we are fed a gore-fest which, whilst entertaining in its own way, does not constitute horror – merely mindless violence.
No, a true old school horror buff will tell you, it’s all in the tension. It’s in what you don’t see more than what you do – and it’s in the story.
This is what makes James Wan’s approach in The Conjuring films (and indeed, his other films) so refreshing. Annabelle notwithstanding, Wan’s horrors are some of the most traditional and satisfying of recent years (and let’s remember that Wan didn’t direct Annabelle as he did the others, but served as producer). And whilst The Conjuring and its predecessor are based on true stories, he certainly gives a certain twist to their endings to keep his audiences engrossed.
With his trademark throwback style title shot kicking off The Conjuring 2, I felt myself getting excited for another of his horrors. Being finicky with my horror films, and huge fan of Lewton, Chaney and the like, I am always apprehensive to watch something labelling itself as ‘creepy’, as rarely do they live up to the description. However, since Insidious was first released, I’ve had a special place in my heart for Wan. But enough gushing, my James Wan obsession is for another article on another day.
Based on the true story of The Enfield Haunting, a famous case of reported paranormal activity in London back in the 1970’s, The Conjuring 2 sees Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) Warren being called to England to investigate the happenings alongside Maurice Grosse, played by Simon McBurney in a far more clueless and comical iteration of the character than Timothy Spall’s efforts in Sky’s The Enfield Haunting last year.
The Conjuring 2 seemed to have somewhat of a slow first half, it must be admitted, with several “Lewton Bus” style scares and cheap jumps. For a short while, I became concerned that this second parter might be suffering from an affliction known as “crap sequel syndrome”. With some very fake cockney accents from the English leading cast, and my prominent skeptical stance on all things ringing in my head alongside my in-depth knowledge of the case itself and its very likely forgery by the Hodgson family. If you aren’t familiar with the case – first of all, where the hell have you been? – and second of all, it is the story of how one working class family in London were the subject of a supposed haunting, centring around Janet Hodgson.
For this entirely unconvincing first half of the movie, which had me rolling my eyes in the same way that homeopaths and psychics do, the skeptic character of Anita Gregory (played by the always perfect Franka Potente) acted as my spirit animal. Looking back now, I feel that maybe this was Wan’s plan for me all along…
When Anita’s investigation comes up with some seemingly unarguable proof that Janet has, in fact, been faking the entire thing, the Warrens pack up and head home. And this is where the film – and my review – changes tone.
Now, I’ve been instructed by my editor not to put any spoilers in this review, as she has to proof it and she’s not seen the film yet. But let me say, that there is a very pin-pointable moment involving some tape, and from that moment on, you’d better hope the edge of your seat is as comfy as the rest of it, because you’ll be stuck there. It’s a sudden acceleration of tension that had me decimate the pen I was holding (fine, I ate it.)
The seemingly slow build up begins to make sense, the plot pulls together like an intricate garment, and the scares become so much more than just cheap tricks and a ‘boo’ from a dark corner. It is genuinely fearful. The juice is utterly worth the squeeze – stick with it.
Ultimately, The Conjuring 2 peppers James Wan’s signature ‘classic horror homage’ style across a refreshingly new take on a much told story. Whilst the build-up echoes the trend of not concluding ghost stories, fear not – Wan doesn’t fail to deliver an eye-wateringly intense finale that is not for the faint of heart.
THE CONJURING 2 IS OUT ON DVD AND BLU-RAY NOW!