THE CONJURING 2: 4 STARS. “Farmiga is a master at the terrified visage.”
In 2013’s “The Conjuring” self-described “demonologists, ghost hunters and kooks” Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) battled spirits in a Rhode Island haunted house. Imagine a mash-up of “The Exorcist” and a particularly spooky episode of “Ghost Hunters.” The sequel, eerily titled “The Conjuring 2,” picks up their story seven years later.
This time around again their exploration of the Amityville Horror house has brought the Warrens fame but the case left Lorraine fatigued, too wearied for the weird stuff. “This is as close to hell with this I ever want to get,” she says. She is tormented by strange visions, unsure if she wants to continue exploring the paranormal. “After everything we’ve seen there isn’t much that rattles us anymore,” says Lorraine, “but [Amityville] still haunts me.”
She is drawn back into the world of ghosts, goblins and things that go bump in the night when the Catholic Church calls on the spooky duo to be their eyes and ears in another Ouija board cautionary tale. This one is the Enfield Poltergeist incident in Britain, a 1977 exploration into a case some called the English Amityville.
Once again there’s a haunting, but instead of a ghost in a house, malevolent spirits possess a young child, Janet Hodgson (Madison Wolfe), who speaks in strange voices—“I’ve come from the grave!”—levitates and does all manner of uncanny, violent things.
Director James Wan takes his time unveiling the scares in “The Conjuring 2,” allowing tensions to build slowly and surely. Even the innocent act of watching a bad sitcom takes on a sinister air, with the canned laughter adding to the audience anxiety. Some will think it moves too slowly, others will be edging towards the front of their seats.
Apart from the mouth-agape scared faces—Farmiga is a master at the terrified visage—“The Conjuring 2’s” terror is supplied by very simple special effects. Chairs rocking back-and-forth and slamming doors are simple, practical effects but the fear they deliver is amplified by Wan’s skill with old school timing and beautiful, atmospheric filmmaking. The story is occasionally silly, but still able to raise the hairs on the back of the neck because Wan carefully doles out details that add up to an unsettling night at the movies. Is it grim? Emotionally, perhaps, but there are no blood and guts, just a positive message that love conquers all, even evil.