If going to the movies and being terrified is your idea of a great night out, then The Conjuring 2 is for you. Like the original, this supernatural horror is based on the life and work of real-life American paranormal investigators, Ed (Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Farmiga).
It opens with the couple investigating the famous Amityville Horror in 1976, during which Lorraine experiences a terrifying premonition, before moving on to another famous case; the Hodgson Family and the Enfield Poltergeist.
Solo mother Peggy Hodgson (O'Connor) lives hand-to-mouth with her four children in a run down terraced house in North London, and from 1977 to 1979 is terrorised by a malicious ghost who goes as far as to possess the youngest daughter Janet (an excellent Madison Wolfe). Though there are plenty of witnesses, some experts suspect a hoax; with the church agreeing to help out if their "agents" Ed and Lorraine Warren can confirm the ghost is real.
Glossy and preppy Lorraine and Ed descend on a grey, wet London - and not a moment too soon. James Wan already has us rattled with his masterful sense of suspense and horror. It's old-school and slow-building, takes place in the dark and begins with complete silence, before noises and scary music swell, leading to terrifying appearances by the ghost, which has you jumping in your seat.
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As predictable as it is, this clever combination had me watching a fair amount of the film through my fingers.
Beyond the scares, The Conjuring 2 offers a pretty straightforward exorcism story, without wasting energy on character development or back story. If you've seen the original film, you'll have an understanding of what makes Lorraine and Ed tick, but for the rest of us they arrive as fully formed characters; a loved-up, religious, 70s version of Mulder and Scully.
Though the production design reflects the poverty of the Hodgson family and Margaret Thatcher's period of austerity, the shooting style clashes by being overly slick, and the link between the early Amityville vision and this case is tenuous at best. But then Wan's intention is simply to terrify us, and there's no doubt he's delivered one hell of a fright.
Movie: The Conjuring 2
Cast: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Frances O'Connor
Director: James Wan Running Time: 134 mins
Rating: R13 (Violence, horror scenes)
Verdict: Frightening and yet familiar.