The Conjuring 2 (2016) ☆☆1/2(2.5/4): Same scares and shocks in a different location

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“The Conjuring 2” serves us same scares and shocks we saw from its predecessor. During the screening I attended yesterday, I and other audiences around me did get as much as we expected from it, and there were indeed several effective moments to entertain us, but I merely observed this well-made horror product from the distance without enough emotional involvement. This is a familiar horror amusement park packed with usual scary things, and it will not surprise you that much if you have ever watched “The Exorcist” (1973), “The Amityville Horror” (1979), “Poltergeist” (1982), and, yes, “The Conjuring” (2013).

Anyway, the movie tries a few fresh things as moving to a different background. It is London in 1977, and we meet one struggling family living in the London borough of Enfield. Since her husband recently left her and their four children, Peggy Hodgson (Frances O’Connor) has been frustrated with her family’s difficult economic situation, which is reflected well by the dim, shabby interior of their council house. Margaret (Lauren Esposito), Janet (Madison Wolfe), Johnny (Patrick McAule) and Billy (Benjamin Haigh) know well about how much their mother struggles with her domestic matters everyday, but they look mostly fine as sticking together as siblings, and they have been comfort and solace in Peggy’s hard daily life.

But then, on one day, something wicked begins to creep into their house not long after Janet and Margaret attempt to have a little fun with an Ouija board made by Janet and her schoolmate. Nothing particularly strange happens at that time, but a series of weird happenings soon follow after that, and the Hodgsons become more disturbed day by day. They hear strange noises during night, and then they have spooky nocturnal experiences too real to be nightmares. Furthermore, Janet starts to show unnerving behaviors including sleepwalking and talking to someone invisible, and then it finally becomes very clear to everyone that the house is being influenced by some unseen supernatural force.

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As what is happening in the Hodgsons’ house naturally draws the attention of local media (There is an amusing moment when local police officers quickly decide that this is beyond their, uh, jurisdiction), several paranormal investigators including Maurice Grosse (Simon McBurney) come to examine the house. While they do not get any strong evidence to prove the paranormal activities surrounding the house, Grosse and others happen to witness Janet being possessed by something in the middle of their investigation, and scary things keep happening even when the Hodgsons stay for a while at their kind neighbor’s house right across from theirs.

Meanwhile, the movie occasionally looks at how Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) are going through a recovery period at their home in US. Because Lorraine, who is a clairvoyant, had a very bad experience during their investigation of the Amityville Horror case, they decided to take some rest, but she finds herself still haunted by an evil spirit she beheld during their previous investigation, and she becomes more nervous especially after that evil spirit in question somehow influences her husband’s artistic sensibility. When they are asked to look into the Hodgsons’ case for determining whether the Catholic Church should deal with the case directly, they are reluctant at first, but they come to London anyway because they cannot disregard people in the urgent need of their help.

As they did in the previous film, Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson bring sincere humanity into their roles, and these two talented performers are believable as a couple who are strongly connected with each other through their mutual love and belief. Farmiga and Wilson really know how to make their scenes look engaging through their performance, and you can look at their characters with interest even though you remain skeptical about what the movie and most of its characters believe in. As mentioned during its end credits, the movie is indeed inspired by a real-life incident which is one of the most well-known haunted houses cases, but I must tell you that the incident is as questionable as the real-life counterpart of Mr. and Mrs. Warren, who once claimed that they encountered a werewolf.

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The other cast members besides Farmiga and Wilson are also convincing in their respective supporting roles. Simon McBurney, who looks a lot different from his shady supporting turn in “Mission: Impossible – the Rogue Nation” (2015), feels rather silly at first but then has an earnest scene where his character reveals his personal side. Frances O’Connor and four young performers around her look as plain and ordinary as required, and young actress Madison Wolfe deserves praises for handling a number of demanding scenes well with admirable conviction.

The director/co-writer James Wan, who wrote the screenplay with Carey Hayes, Chad Hayes, and David Johnson, did a competent job of establishing disturbing atmosphere and then pushing shock buttons to jolt us. There are numerous ‘Boo!’ moments here and there throughout the film, but they are effective ones based on its good mood and suspense. The movie is often visually impressive thanks to its smooth cinematography by Don Burgess, and I liked how the tension is slowly increased via deft camerawork and editing during a certain scene involved with a toy fire truck.

In my review on “The Conjuring”, I wondered whether I was not scared enough because I had watched many horror films as a seasoned moviegoer, and that impression was repeated during my viewing of “The Conjuring 2”. I was amused and entertained from time to time, but, again, I was not so scared enough to recommend it to you. As a matter of fact, I previously watched scarier and spookier horror films like “The Babadook” (2014) and “It Follows” (2014), and maybe you should check them out someday.

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