When a London family is the focus of a violent and unpredictable haunting, Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) Warren find themselves travelling across the world to try and find out whether the events experienced by the young Janet Hodgson (Madison Wolfe) and her family are real or an elaborate hoax. Battling ghosts and visions of their own, the Warrens find themselves drawn into the case, but struggle to find out what is targeting the family, and why.
The Conjuring 2 is the follow up to the immensely successful film The Conjuring, and, as with the first film, follows stories taken from the case files of real life demon hunters Ed and Lorraine Warren. The Conjuring 2 is inspired by the true story of the Enfield Poltergeist – which was first reported in 1977, as was the subject of a Sky TV drama last year – but while the true story seems to have been a hoax, The Conjuring 2 takes this ghost story and ramps it up for the big screen.
The cast of The Conjuring 2 are strong in their roles; Frances O’Connor plays Peggy Hodgson, the head of the family and a single mother struggling to cope on her own. The kids are played by Lauren Esposito, Benjamin Haigh and Patrick McAuley, with Madison Wolfe taking centre stage as the haunted and traumatised Janet. Wolfe makes Janet a compelling character, and excels in striking the balance between creepy and fear. Returning to their roles as demon hunters, Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga work well together; Wilson the more strong and unwavering of the two, while Farmiga makes Lorraine’s fears and visions feel relatable and engaging. Two Irish actors, Maria Doyle Kennedy and Simon Delaney, turn up as the Hodgson’s neighbours and friends, Peggy and Vic Nottingham.
As mentioned, Carey Hayes, Chad Hayes, James Wan and David Johnson’s screenplay is inspired by the true events of Enfield in the 1970s. There are differences between the true story and the film, since everything has been heightened in the film for dramatic effect and to give the audience good, old fashioned scares. There is a lovely contrast drawn between the Warrens and the Hodgsons, as both families are fighting their own demons that are seemingly unconnected. The screenplay is also a careful look at the troubles of those on lower incomes, as the Hodgson family cannot afford to move out of their haunted house, so must either spend their time sleeping on the floor of friends’ living rooms or go back and face their fears; moving into a new home is not an option. The final act of the film amps up the scares, the jumps and the creepy kids, but although these are standard horror movie tropes, the film does not over use them, instead using these familiar themes to its advantage.
As director, James Wan takes a true story and makes it bigger and scarier for the big screen. There are less jump scares than a creeping feeling of unease that permeates the entire film, leaving the audience on edge and almost waiting for the big frights to ease the tension. The film is rather slow to begin with, with the Warrens and the Hodgsons not meeting until an hour in, and although this time is given to develop family dynamics and explore the fears that motivate the people at the centre of the story, this means that the film is drawn out to 133 minutes, and the pacing often drops and then the film awkwardly jumps through time to catch up with the haunted house tale.
In all, however, The Conjuring 2is a confident and smart horror film that tries to stay away from atmospheric tropes and obvious scares, instead being carefully infused with a feel of dread and anticipation. The cast do well in their roles, with Farmiga and Wilson standing out as they make their relationship warm and complex, and young Madison Wolfe making Janet Hodgson almost effortlessly creepy. The pacing drops from time to time, but warmer moments keep the film moving, as does the careful exploration of what constitutes a hoax.