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article imageReview: ‘The Conjuring 2’ is a master class in horror filmmaking Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Jun 10, 2016 in Entertainment
Based on one of the Warrens’ case files, ‘The Conjuring 2’ is a legitimately startling film that balances outright frights with a daunting atmosphere.
The supernatural has always been a rich source of inspiration for horror movies. Regardless of whether it’s based on real, recorded accounts or if audiences believe in its existence, there is an inescapable creep factor related to an unknown plane of existence that can interact with our own; even more disturbing is the idea that many of these entities mean to inflict harm. There are enough exorcism and haunting pictures to comprise their own subgenre, but the best demonstrate a particular talent for portraying evil. The Conjuring 2 is an example of such skill.
The Amityville haunting was one of the most contentious as some claimed it was nothing more than a publicity stunt and others insist until this day that it was a real-life haunting. Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) worked that case and afterwards she insisted they enter a form of semi-retirement — something in that house terrified her. But when the Church requests they travel to north London to confirm a claim, Ed cannot refuse a family in need. Peggy Hodgson (Frances O'Connor) and her four children live in a small house on a quiet street. The initial disturbances were relatively trivial, but rapidly became more aggressive. The entity latched onto her second eldest, Janet (Madison Wolfe), disregarding any attempt to escape and refusing to let the family live in peace. Skeptics and wannabe-believers alike tried documenting the occurrences, but it’s up to Ed and Lorraine to finish the job.
The recent spotlight on the Warrens’ most infamous cases has resulted in some of the best horror cinema of recent years. As everyone is already aware of the Amityville story, it’s used as a launching pad to delve into the details of an equally disturbing situation an ocean away. Before they intersect, the two narratives unfold simultaneously as both families are troubled by a malevolent force. In the face of this evil both Peggy and Lorraine do their best to protect their families, which becomes ever more complicated when running away fails both of them.
Having triumphantly entered the scene with 2004’s Saw, director James Wan quickly catapulted to being one of the best horror filmmakers of his generation. He has a thorough understanding of the genre and its devices, and has demonstrated a keen sense of how to effectively apply them. Rather than solely rely on the element of surprise, Wan builds an intense atmosphere filled with anticipation. The monsters he portrays are so well-crafted, they’re scary irrespective of the narrative. In addition, he regularly toys with audience’s expectations; as they wait for something to leap from the dark, he opts for a more subtle appearance that lowers the viewer’s guard so he can really frighten them a few moments later. This organized restraint is one of the key elements that make Wan’s films so praiseworthy — just listen to how he describes the structure of this fairly banal scene from the film.
Wilson and Farmiga flawlessly reprise their roles as the famous paranormal investigators, though this script definitely relies on her more. Although the remaining cast is relatively large, most of the weight falls on the shoulders of O’Connor and Wolfe who do an excellent job leading the horrified family through their ordeal. Peggy’s devotion to her kids is boundless as she refuses to leave Janet, standing by her through every step of their shared nightmare. O’Connor gives the mother of four seemingly unlimited strength and courage, never relegating her to a hysterical basket-case. In spite of the age difference, Wolfe’s character mirrors her power while also wearing the effects of being the demon’s puppet.
At just over two hours, the film may seem a little long; but it also packs an incredibly well-told horror story that will captivate audiences from beginning to end.
Director: James Wan
Starring: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson and Madison Wolfe
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