It's not often that watching a film makes me assume the aeroplane emergency position in my cinema seat, letting out a series of silent screams that only nearby dogs can hear. In fact, it has only happened twice: during the first instalment of The Conjuring and, unsurprisingly, during the recently-released The Conjuring 2.
Both films are based on Ed and Lorraine Warren, a real-life American husband and wife famous for their work as paranormal investigators. The second instalment, directed by James Wan (who also directed the first Conjuring) sets out to chronicle some more of the pair's most extreme hauntings.
Where the first film took us inside a horrible haunted house in Rhode Island, the second instalment zips forward to 1977, to a spook-infested council townhouse in the north London town of Enfield. Ed and Lorraine (played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) travel from the States to tackle the disturbance, but not before dipping their toes into a frightfest in Amityville, which would later become one of my favourite late-night Wikipedia reads of all time.
Perhaps it's because The Conjuring 2 largely takes place in England that the chills feel slightly closer to home. The Hodgson home is a damp, shadowy, tired state house now battling much more than just mould and damp.
There's a vengeful spirit possessing the youngest girl in the home, making a right mess of the kitchen and manifesting into several horrifying characters.
Armed with their strongest crucifix and some stunning 70s cravats, the Warrens try their darnedest to vanquish the demonic spirit.
Fans of flashy special effects and CGI monstrosities will get their fill as the film progresses, allowing the audience to see more and more through the sweaty fingers covering their eyes.
Instead of letting the demons hide in the shadows, they are vividly imagined - only overstepping a line into costumey and borderline funny towards the climax. Let's just say I'm not the first person to draw comparisons between a certain spirit and Marilyn Manson.
As in the first film, the simplest scares are the most effective. A humble wall hanging turning upside-down on its own accord, or a toy fire truck being pushed from the depths of a children's tent by an unknown being in the shadows.
After years of horror films serving platters of gratuitous blood and guts, it's nice to see a return to old-fashioned ghostly restraint. The fact that director James Wan was also one of the evil geniuses behind the Saw franchise goes to show we have firmly exorcised the horror genre of torture porn, and it couldn't have come soon enough.
For all the frights in The Conjuring 2, there are some surprisingly light moments in the film that provide welcome relief. Wilson and Farmiga bounce off each other as an ordinary married couple with an extraordinary day job, and there's even a moving musical interlude to soften the mood.
Far from being uneven, this shift helps to enrich the plausibility of the situation and the people in it. It's only during the genius end credits that you remember it's because this all actually happened. Or at least that's what Wikipedia says.
Without even trying, the story also provides the perfect antidote to any poisonous Ghostbusters fans still complaining about the upcoming all-female remake. Lorraine taking charge in the investigation adds a nice touch of female agency, and she becomes an integral part of the film's dramatic finale. See guys? Girls can kick ghost butt, too.
The Conjuring 2 feels slightly more playful than its predecessor, but don't let that fool you. It may seem like you are being granted more wiggle room with the fun effects and the throwaway jokes, but before you know it, the rug is pulled out and you're being thrown into the depths of pure hell all over again.