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‘The Conjuring’ Scares Up More Demons In A Lengthy Sequel (Movie Review)

the conjuring 2 thumbAfter stepping out of the horror realm to put his foot on the gas and deliver the huge action blockbuster that was Furious 7, director James Wan returns to what he knows best with a sequel to his 2013 horror hit The Conjuring. The Conjuring 2 pretty much gives audiences what they are looking for, as far as spooky mainstream horror, but at over two hours, I wish it had more going on. While the film is sound on a technical level and startling when it chooses to be, there was only so much to take away from the characters and story, which felt more engaging the first time around.

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To be clear, while I am aware many hold up The Conjuring as something of a horror classic in the making, I wasn’t quite as impressed. Working from a story based on a true event (which really isn’t important), Wan was able to craft a good-looking demonic possession story, but the film hardly stuck with me. Now we are back with Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga), who take on a new case. Set in 1977, the Warrens travel to England, where they investigate a home that has been invaded by a demonic threat and plagues a single mother (Frances O’Connor) and her four children.

Similar to the first film, The Conjuring 2 works best in its first act. Wan is able to let the camera explore the house and properly establish a sense of geography. Cinematographer Don Burgess adds plenty in this respect, as a mood is crafted and the elaborate camera movements serve as visual exposition. We also get the most meaningful amount of time spent with the Hodgson family. The Warrens get a subplot of their own as well, which means we don’t actually see the two character groups cross path until an hour in.

Keeping that first hour in mind, the good scares are peppered throughout this portion of the film. Wan has never been one to shy away from a good jump scare and there are plenty here, but the setups in this film certainly earns them. Lots of good work is done to build tension involving the young children and pay it off with nice ‘boo’ moments. One scary element relies way too much on CG, but for the most part, the satisfaction that comes from the frightening factor will likely work for most audiences.

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The second half of this 134-minute horror film (ugh) taps into more procedural elements, but the film never really chooses to invest in the characters, as they explore what is going on. There are some conversations between Farmiga, Wilson and whoever happens to be listening, but this film does little to dwell on anything aside from direct references to scenes that just happened. O’Connor, for example, is terrific at showing the pain and suffering she is going through, but that anguish fails to extend to anything else or play into deeper thought on her and her family.

This all seems to stem from the choice to up the scare factor. The Conjuring 2 likely has more JPMs (jumps per minute) than the first film, but it comes at a cost. The more direct scares there are packed into this film, the less chance we have to be invested in the characters getting scared. Honestly, I couldn’t tell you a thing about the children being terrorized, which was not much of an issue with the family from the first film.

My reasoning behind pointing out these flaws stems from the decision to ‘go bigger’ for this sequel. The film really is way too long, which is an issue that could be solved by taking out some extraneous characters. Franka Potente is a wonderful actress, but her role as this film’s naysayer provides nothing but frustration and padding onto a film that really doesn’t need it. Sure the character was based on a real person, but the dramatic license taken to build this story doesn’t exactly have me believing everyone was essential.

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To speak up for the clear positives though, Wan does deliver the goods as far as the horror is concerned. I have already praised what he accomplishes as far as the effective tension in the first half, but he also creates a memorable horror image, just as he has done in The Conjuring, Insidious and Saw. I don’t know if ‘demon nun’ will catch on in the same way as Annabelle, but it works as a clear example of what Wan knows how to do very well.+

For a horror sequel, The Conjuring 2 may actually work better than it should, which is what happens when you have two real life characters and tons of their actual cases to work with (nice shout out to the Amityville haunting by the way). The film is still far too long and not as engaging as it should be character-wise, but the scares are there. Credit also goes to the actors. As familiar as some of the material may be, Wan gets good work out of his performers, which is what helps something like this feel like a real movie. I just hope the next case gets me a little more excited.

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Gamer, Comic Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

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