The Conjuring 2
Directed by James Wan
Starring Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Frances O’Connor, Madison Wolfe
Review by Jordan
When I was young, for a brief period of time I had a bedroom at the end of a hallway. Sleeping with the door open at night, with my head positioned to look directly into the dark corridor only occasionally lit when a full moon sky would influence the kitchen at the end of it, I would often wake up and find myself staring down into it, scared for what could possibly be down there, staring back up at me. I would wake up, and I would have nightmares, and never have I seen this innate, and I imagine universal childhood fear translated so authentically, and terrifyingly to screen than with The Conjuring 2.
The scene referenced, which also involves the deathly dark inside an indoor tipi and a silence-breaking toy fire engine, is only one of many that build absolute horror through fear of the dark at first, and then a fear of what we can’t see staring down the back of our necks. Then, as with The Conjuring, physical terror is employed to completely fry the last vestiges of un-involvement for the viewer, to have them, like the Hodgson family of Green Street, constantly on edge in anticipation of the next horrifying occurrence. Never has a film been so continuously scary as this. Moment upon moment there is no respite, like Janet Hodgson has no respite, with the dread suffered by Lorraine Warren through her visions flowing into the diabolical haunting in Enfield, London; a dread that is duly warranted.
Set seven years after the events of 1970, where paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren just barely survived the trauma in the farmhouse of the Perrons, The Conjuring 2 briefly touches on the famous story of Amityville before again focusing on a desperate family living in a house alive with sorrow. Here, the sorrow, and the anger, is emitted through the returning of the 72 year old past owner of the residence, whose targeting of young Janet to communicate and enact violence is a harrowing thing to behold. At first it’s furniture being moved, knocking on doors and the eerily positioned lounge chair in the corner rocking with the weight of the vengeful Bill, before things escalate to the extent the Church needs convincing it’s not in fact a hoax. The Warren’s are called upon, and their genuine desire to help those in need outweighs Lorraine’s want of retiring. Although Ed makes contact, neither can feel particular malevolence in the property; a curiosity that will reveal itself to be the greatest horror of all.
Director James Wan has many tools at his disposal. He utilises classic film techniques like long tracking shots and static cameras, and juxtaposes them with experimentation (the opening scene with Lorraine embodying the Amityville Horror a particularly striking example of this) and vivid, ghoulish imagery with a particular emphasis placed on fixed, deep eyes and creaking fingers emerging from the shadows. This is never more evident than when a macabre painting of Ed’s, inspired by a nightmare, is used as a conduit for a fateful message. It’s chilling. His working relationship with Patrick Wilson is also integral to his career to date, with the two collaborating on the impressive Insidious (2010) and of course the original Conjuring (2013). Vera Farmiga should also be commended for her commitment to role and absolute stoicism. Truly what sets these films apart is that they are based on a foundation of drama, with internal conflict and motivations of earnest characters paving the way for the evil that would disrupt it to appear all the more abhorrent.
The Conjuring 2 is patient, yet relentlessly unsettling, and because of my deserved affection for the characters I found myself constantly engaged even during moments some might find jarring. Imagination and impeccable application drive Wan’s latest to be quite possibly his best film to date, and his creation of a nun whose very appearance can make your blood run cold solidifies it as his scariest.