“If there’s somethin’ strange in your neighborhood, who you gonna call?” Well apparently if you’re the Catholic Church you don’t call the Ghostbusters, you call Ed and Loraine Warren instead. In 2010 director James Wan terrified audience with his horror film Insidious and then in 2013 he doubled down and broke box office records for a horror film with The Conjuring, and it looks like he is on the way to doing it again with The Conjuring 2.
The first Conjuring movie opened with the Warrens explaining the case of the evil doll Annabelle to a lecture hall full of people, and now in The Conjuring 2 the film opens with the Warrens investigating the notorious Amityville Horror house. These are basically like the James Bond cold opens where we come in as Bond is finishing off a mission only in this series it’s the Warrens busting some ghost or demon, but sadly we don’t get any cool Saul Bass credit sequences between the opening and the movie proper.
Basing a film franchise on the paranormal investigations of the Warrens is pure genius; you can slap “Based on a true story” and then make up any crazy shit you want because that’s basically what the Warrens did in real life. This movie even deals with Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Loraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) being accused of perpetrating hoaxes by local skeptics, but then the movie will show us terrifying images that are clearly not something you could fake.
Five minutes of googling will reveal to you that the Amityville case was simply about home owners teaming up with the lawyer of a convicted murderer, Butch deFeo who has since admitted to murdering his abusive parents while high on heroine, and to fabricate a hoax so as to make shitloads of money for one party and a possible retrial for the other on the grounds of demonic possession (Side Note: The Lutzes made tons of bank from book and movie deals while deFeo is still in jail, so the plan only half worked). The Warrens were just one of many paranormal investigators who jumped on the Amityville bandwagon to get some free publicity. So we can all agree that the Amityville horror was bullshit, but what about the Haunting of Enfield House that is the center of The Conjuring 2.
Yes, the haunting of Enfield House was another hoax, this time perpetrated by two teen-age girls who have since admitted as such. But Mike, you say, who gives a shit if it was real or not, is Conjuring 2 a good movie? Well you can all relax, it most certainly is. James Wan knows exactly what will scare an audience, and though his film still has its fair share of “jump scares” it’s the overall creeping dread and horrifying imagery that gets under your skin. When the ghost of Bill Wilkins (Bob Adrian) starts harassing the family’s youngest daughter Janet (Madison Wolfe) we become immediately invested. Here is a sweet innocent girl being terrorized by an evil spirit, and by god do we ever want the Warrens to show up and start kicking his spectral ass.
Note: The kids own a musical zoetrope that plays “He was a Crooked Man” and it joins the long list of creepy toys that you DO NOT BUY FOR YOUR CHILD!” The thing unleashes a horrific visage of the “Crooked Man” that gives the demonic nun a run for her money in the scare department.
The movie does try and play around with “Is this a hoax?” idea, but as we the audience have seen things that clearly cannot be faked by teenage girls; such as Janet teleporting around the house, it makes that element of the plot the weakest. Sure it makes us want to scream “Ed, Lorraine, don’t give up on that family, they need you!” but overall that didn’t quite work for me because we know in our hearts that the Warrens are this film’s heroes and they will not abandon an innocent in danger, even if visions of a demonic nun keeping harbinging Ed’s death. It’s because of these visions that Loraine wants to hang up the ghost busting business, but when the Church asks them to investigate this family in need they can’t turn it down.
Question: Does the Catholic Church have like a “Red Phone” to contact the Warrens with? Maybe they should invest in a “Ghost Signal” that they can put on the roof of the Vatican. Regardless of the dangers the Warrens fly to England to investigate on behalf of the Catholic Church which is apparently afraid of embarrassing themselves by getting mixed up with a potential hoax.
Quibbles aside this is an excellent horror film, though not quite as good as the original it was still damn frightening at times, and certainly better than the prequel/spin-off Annabelle. Once again Patrick Wilson is the standout as the paranormal expert with a heart of gold; and Vera Farmiga is certainly no slouch as the demonically beleaguered wife, but basically the whole cast does terrific work here with no one hitting a wrong note. With all the crappy horror films I’ve seen so far this year this was a nice breath of fresh, and chilling, air.
Note to Filmmakers: Please stop using the song “London is Calling” by The Clash to denote the story is taking place in London England. When the Warrens were asked by the church to investigate a haunting in London I didn’t need that song to tell me we were in “Fucking London.”
The Conjuring 2 (2016)
James Wan has definitely cemented himself as the king of modern horror, and though he says he will not be returning to the director’s chair for adventures with the Warrens I do hope that doesn’t mean he is leaving the genre behind for good.