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Review: The Conjuring 2 – “heightens absolutely everything from the first film”

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cinjuring 2

Current king of horror, James Wan (Insidious, Saw), returns to direct the sequel to his smash hit The Conjuring, after a sojourn making the biggest and most successful Fast and Furious so far too. Stars Vera Farmiga (Bates Motel) and Patrick Wilson (Watchmen) return as demonologist paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, and are this time also joined by Frances O’Connor (Mr. Selfridge), Simon McBurney (Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation), and the brilliant Franka Potente (Run Lola Run, The Bourne Identity).

In the States, the Warren’s have just completed their most infamous case, The Amityville Horror. These events have taken another tremendous toll on the psychically receptive Lorraine, who is now plagued by visions of her husband’s death, and Warren himself is down in the dumps due to the controversy surrounding Amityville, and the American media’s portrayal of himself and Lorraine.

While Lorraine is reluctant to go, when the church come to the Warren’s asking for their opinion on a haunting in Enfield, London, Ed sees this as an ideal escape from the US press and to get back to what he and Lorraine do best: busting some ghosts, and helping a young family.

That family are the Hodgsons: a single mum, two tweenage daughters, and two young sons, scraping by in a North London council house. The malicious spirit of an old man is talking great delight in spooking the Hodgsons, and has taken a special liking to Janet (Madison Wolfe) – who he is using as a conduit to talk through – and Brit ghost hunter Maurice (McBurney) and sceptic Anita (Potente) need the Warren’s to come and decide if the family are faking it for fame and better housing, or in grave danger.

Wan clearly delights in shooting a horror film on British soil. The grading and swirling mists evoke Hammer; while the constant heavy rain, peeling paint and barely-enough-money-for-biscuits poverty are reminiscent of Loach and kitchen sink dramas. This is at times pushed a little too far, and it feels like an actual English person should have read the script, or one of the British cast members should have piped up that some of the schoolgirls vocab is jarringly ungenuine, and the adults are sometimes a bit too “apples and pears”.

This is the only fault with The Conjuring 2 however, which is not just scarier than its predecessor – but often one of the scariest films I have ever seen. Authentically petrifying, Wan’s latest shocker does not just settle for a build and a jump scare, there are scares within scares within scares that are perfectly timed, unrelenting, and often during expertly crafted one shots that will leave you desperate for a cut to relieve the tension.

With the second most successful horror film of all time after The Excorcist, and a billion and a half dollar summer blockbuster under his belt, in The Conjuring 2 James Wan exhibits the scope and confidence to do whatever he wants. And what he wants is to scare you absolutely silly. Again and again and again.

Wilson and Farmiga’s Ed and Lorraine are the heart and soul of the film, and their love and faith is palpable enough to drive the demons crazy, and make the Hodgson’s, and us, fall in love with them. The family themselves feels real too, with lots of little dynamics at play that pay off throughout. Having Maurice, another investigator, who may or may not be entirely trustworthy – and Potente’s stone cold skeptic at hand too also keeps the events as grounded as can be.

The Conjuring 2 heightens absolutely everything from the first film, and manages a rare sequel feat of feeling in-keeping, reassuringly familiar, and excitingly different. Its combination of face-slapping jumps, glaze-of-cold-fear dread, and sanity-questioning “What the heck is THAT?!” scares will freeze your blood and stock up your brain with a week’s worth of nightmare fuel.

4.5-out-of-5

The Conjuring 2 is released in the UK on the 13th of June.

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