WARNER BROS. PICTURES (2016)

Director: James Wan

Starring: Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Frances O’Connor, Madison Wolfe, Simon McBurney, Franka Potente

Around a large table, a séance is occurring, led by Ed Warren (Wilson) and wife Lorraine (Farmiga) during this, Lorraine witnesses the true horror of the Amityville murders (that they investigated) where she is plagued by images of a malevolent  nun and a vision of Ed being impaled by a large beam. Nice. Eventually, she comes round, freaked as hell.

Fast forward one year to 1977, and the suburban surroundings of Enfield, London. A young girl, Janet (Wolfe), claims to be being plagued by the spirit of an old man who used to own the house. Naturally, nobody believes her and the things that go bump in the night continue unabated.

The Conjuring 2 begins with a similar aesthetic to the 2013 original, it has the same main protagonists and that’s about where the comparisons end. Unfortunately, the sequel to James Wan’s hugely successful original doesn’t live up to its predecessor, and ultimately is a disappointment.

The running time is far too long, 2 hours 14 mins, resulting in a bloated, slow story. The need to provide backstory to this (very famous) haunting case is essential, and also to introduce the Hodgson family as well, however this drags in for far too long and becomes uninteresting. It takes over an hour for the Warrens to head to London, and when they do the story plods along again, only picking up pace at the polished, unsatisfying and rushed conclusion. The original Conjuring is 45 minutes shorter, and ends up being a tighter, better film because of this.

I became nauseated at the 1970’s ‘Enfield’ accents, especially in the film’s first acts – it almost seemed as if James Wan directed the cast to mock the London accent, and then make it worse. Really grating, and unusually, the natives of Enfield don’t speak like that… For me it created a disparity as the Warrens accents clashed with the Hodgson mockney voices, it really took me out of the movie.

Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga are good performers, and continue to be so in The Conjuring 2. There’s nothing about their performances which degrade the movie, however the decision to make Ed an everyman stuck out like a sore thumb – there was literally nothing he couldn’t do/fix/prevent. Whoever decided to allow the scene of Ed serenading the family with Elvis Presley needs to have their head examined – Wilson does a fine job of crooning, but it’s just so against the tone of the movie it becomes parody. However, the double act they bring is great; they have a definite chemistry together and really bring a degree of believability to the movie.

Madison Wolfe was part of the gang that almost drove me mad during the film opening acts, however, as the movie went on and she became more and more possessed, her performance got better and joined the two leads as the top performers. The rest of the cast though, not so great, lots of wood and rigidness. Franka Potente was in the movie for short periods and managed to not put a foot wrong, so kudos.

The film’s few jump moments mainly occur due to the deafening bass drop that happens at every scare, and the majority are as predictable as they come – plus everything seems to happen at night. The overuse of objects flying around rooms has been overdone now, and really serves no effect when it’s used so much. The CGI throughout is poor – The Crooked Man’s stop motion effect is jarring and, again, affects the movies tone and feel. Not even the Nun escapes, as towards the end she is attacked by CGI and beaten around the face with it - even cigarette smoke was CGI’d in.

I did like the character of the Nun, however. She bought the creepiness that the movie needed – the mystery and the presence. The movie’s end slightly weakens the character (visually) but the looming knowledge the Nun was lurking somewhere was always there. She certainly packed a bigger punch than Bill, the actual antagonist that possessed Janet. Keep your eyes peeled as clues to the Nun are scattered in the movie.

The look of the Hodgson house was sufficiently grubby and dark (a trap that many horror films now fall into, however as this is based on ‘real life’, then it’s excusable) and added to the movie’s tone – delivering the forbidding atmosphere and graininess required.

The Conjuring relied less on CGI and more on creating an eerie atmosphere, making the viewer think (how did that doll move from room to room…?) and, most importantly, providing a creepy film. Less overblown, more focused. The Conjuring 2 does not possess the same magic, nor does it seem to want to conjur its own magic – simply relying on old clichés to see it through. I enjoyed the original very much, and had high expectations for this one, but I believe Wan went for marketability ahead of the story.

A horror movie for the modern times. A huge disappointment for the modern times.

September 2nd 2016

© 2016 Matt Hudson / What I Watched Tonight / Essex

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