The Conjuring 2 – Review (*** 1/2)

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Creating a movie sequel that’s both entertaining and feels necessary is challenging enough at the best of times, but in the horror genre, which is especially prone to lazy cash-grabs? Leave it to returning director James Wan to deliver not only a rare horror sequel that lives up to – and arguably betters – the original, but a rare 2+ hour horror film that really works.

In 1977, the Hodgson family begin encountering paranormal phenomena in their Enfield, England home, channeled primarily through daughter Janet (Madison Wolfe). Though they’re keen to step away from a career as paranormal investigators,  Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) decide to investigate the activity as unofficial envoys for the church, tackling an especially aggressive demon in the process.

In short, if you liked the original Conjuring, you’ll have plenty of fun with this one, as the spine of the narrative is largely the same, yet effectively so. The plot is for the most part your generic haunted house nonsense, but the execution is where it counts; working with double the budget of the original, Wan puts it to terrific use to craft a visually stunning, tripwire tense horror epic. Yes, there are predictable jump scares and some moments that play more silly than scary, but the entertainment value, driven by some terrific character development, speaks for itself.

The uncharacteristic character work – for the genre, anyway – is bolstered by some of the best horror acting you’ll see all year; Wilson and Farmiga are once again an incredibly likeable duo whose lives outside of the “profession” are palpable, and it’s an easy sell to root for them (and their marriage) throughout. Plus, the “one last mission” nature of their story here creates an unpredictable tone that carries through to the wild finale.

Then there’s Madison Wolfe, easily one of the most promising child actors in recent Hollywood history, giving an incredibly believable performance as the unfortunate child preyed upon by the demon, and what’s more, her British accent is absolutely spot-on (she’s actually American).

The combination of direction and acting add up to a potent mix that basically retains the strengths and weakness of the original movie; it looks great and the cast are awesome, even if the plot is predictable and the jump scares and general loudness of the film border on obnoxious at times. It’s also worth mentioning that the film is almost certainly longer than it needs to be – the Warrens don’t fly to England until the half-way mark – yet at the same time it carries its run-time surprisingly well for the most part.

The Conjuring 2 is a rare horror sequel where an inevitable third film is actually rather welcome, and quite what an achievement that is.

*** 1/2

The Conjuring 2 is in cinemas now

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