As we close in on October 31, AiPT! will be reviewing and recommending various pieces of underappreciated scary media-books, comics, movies, and television-to help keep you terrified and entertained all the way up to Halloween.
More often than not, sequels have a tendency to be worse than the original film. Take 1999’s found footage hit The Blair Witch Project for example. It received a critics’ score of 87% on Rotten Tomatoes while its sequel, released a year later, was given a measly 14%. Although this has happened countless times with sequels, 2016’s The Conjuring 2 thankfully did not follow this unfortunate pattern.
At the beginning of James Wan’s The Conjuring 2, we meet Ed and Lorraine Warren, a married couple who investigates homes believed to be experiencing supernatural activity. In the following scene, we are introduced to the Hodgsons, a family of four children and their single mother, who reside in London. One of Peggy Hodgson’s daughters, named Janet, begins to show signs of demonic possession, so Peggy, desperate for help, calls upon the Warrens.
Both Vera Farmiga, who plays Lorraine Warren, and Frances O’Connor, who plays Peggy Hodgson, shine in their roles. Vera elegantly captures Lorraine’s strength, kindness and fear. O’Connor was the perfect casting choice for Peggy; she does an impeccable job at portraying a terrified, yet loving mother. In fact, I forgot she was an actress for much of the movie.
The best part of the film, in my opinion, was the production design done by Julie Berghoff. The living room setting especially sent chills down my spine, and with the haunting lighting, it drew me into the scenes and made me feel like I was right there with the characters. To add to the creep factor, the long and thin hallways shown in the film increased my heartbeat and gave a sense of claustrophobia, which made me fear every time the camera swayed around darkened corners.
Despite the perfect production design and spot-on casting, The Conjuring 2 is not a flawless film. Both the original and its sequel are claimed to have been based on a true story. However, this movie felt like it delved more into horror tropes than the first, and because of this, there were moments when I was pulled away from the suspense.
For example, perhaps the biggest blow to this film was its inability to hold off on showing the entities. Right off the bat, we get to see an evil nun, followed by Bill Wilkins, the spirit of an angry elderly man who is revealed to have previously lived and died in the Hodgson house. Seeing them so early on in the movie takes away some of the anxiety we feel the next time we meet them, and then the next time, and then the next time after that. When we get exposed to them this often, suddenly it just becomes a nun with glowing eyes and an old man sitting in a chair in the corner. The tension lessens and the movie begins to rely on jump scares, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing if done properly. The Conjuring 2‘s jump scares had me leaping out of my seat, but overtime, this began to feel like cheap thrills, especially when this movie had such a high potential for suspense.
The Conjuring 2 was no cheesy sequel by any means. It accomplished its goal of terrifying its audience although it could’ve gone at this in a more subtle, stealthy manner. Either way, I won’t be sleeping alone tonight, and I’ve got my television and nightlight on.