Synopsis: Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren travel to London to investigate a haunted house in Enfield.
Director: James Wan
Starring: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Frances O’Connor, Madison Wolfe
Release date: June 17, 2016
Running time 134 mins
Director James Wan’s 2013 retro horror The Conjuring was a huge hit with both critics and audiences alike, thanks to a perfect combination of expertly directed scares, pitch-perfect performances and some exceptional production design work that recalled classic 1970s chillers.
Thankfully, Wan and his entire team are back on board for the sequel and it doesn’t disappoint, delivering a thoroughly enjoyable set of scares, even it can’t quite match the sheer bloody terror of its predecessor.
Constantly on edge
Set in 1977, the film sees Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga reprise their roles as real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, whose notoriety has increased dramatically since the first film as a result of their participation in the Amityville case, a brief section of which forms a creepy prologue.
When the church asks the Warrens to investigate a haunted house in Enfield (a real-life case that drew a lot of media attention and was dubbed “Britain’s Amityville”) Ed and Lorraine fly to London and meet single mother-of-four Peggy Hodgson (Frances O’Connor), whose youngest daughter Janet (Madison Wolfe) is being plagued by a malicious spirit.
Wan’s control of the material is exceptional throughout, ratcheting up the suspense through a series of meticulously-crafted slow builds and keeping the audience constantly on edge.
In particular, Wan excels at creating an oppressively tense atmosphere, paying close attention to every element, from the sound design (squeaky garden swings, etc) to the creepy settings (a flooded basement, a room full of crucifixes) and the lovingly detailed set design work – as well as making strong use of darkly menacing shadows, in tandem with cinematographer Don Burgess.
The performances are exceptional across the board.
Wilson and Farmiga have compelling chemistry together and exude an authoritative, powerfully compassionate presence that’s as reassuring for the audience as it is for the haunted Hodgsons.
Similarly, Wolfe is terrific as the heart-breakingly fragile figure at the focus of the demonic activity and there’s strong support from O’Connor and from Simon McBurney as a softly-spoken fellow investigator.
Wan orchestrates a number of thrillingly effective set-pieces, including a heart-in-mouth climax and a genuinely chilling sequence set in the flooded basement. In addition, the film knows the value of holding off on the scares too, allowing a sweetly staged scene where Ed sings an Elvis song to the children (doing a great impression into the bargain) to play out in full.
On top of that, the film is packed with delightful little details (you know the spirit is evil, for example, because it keeps changing the channel on the TV to watch a Margaret Thatcher speech) and, as with the first film, a focus on particular objects (primarily a zoetrope and a toy fire-truck) is used to splendidly scary effect.
A worthy sequel to the 2013 hit, this is a hugely entertaining horror flick heightened by pitch-perfect performances and expert direction from Wan.