review//THE CONJURING 2

Grade: B-

THE CONJURING 2
Directed by James Wan
Starring Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Madison Wolfe

The battle between darkness and light has made for some of Hollywood's best, spookiest, most thrilling tales. In the modern era of spiritual horror films, franchises like The Conjuring are make or break. Focus too much on the terror and you lose the heart. Focus too much on the hear and you lose the audience. Luckily, for horror genre fans, The Conjuring 2 lives up, mostly, to the fear and redemption of the original.

Janet Hodgson (Madison Wolfe) is your typical preteen. Her daily struggles are more focused on trying to fit in than anything else. Along with her siblings, she lives with her single mother in a London residence all too becoming of the suburban 1970's. After a run in with a homemade Ouija board, Janet begins experiencing frightening happenings during the night. It becomes clear, over time, that what she originally attributed to being sleepwalking is something darker.

Soon, the Catholic church flies Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga reprising their roles) to England to investigate. Though the couple has dealt with some of history's most puzzling paranormal events, including the Amityville house incident, they approach this London event as cautiously as ever. Almost immediately scenes of demonic possession and physical destruction line each night and the life of this young girl becomes the supreme priority.

The Conjuring 2 relies heavily on knowledge of Ed and Lorraine Warren, expecting audience goers to have experience the first film, as it rightfully should. Getting glimpses of the couple's closet of horrors at their home makes it clear that the creepy story options are endless. This makes it interesting that they'd choose a story famously found towards the end of the Ed and Lorraine paranormal era to send up as the second chapter of the franchise.

The weight of the story relies on Lorraine's hesitation towards continuing to connect with spirits and investigate demonic presences. Very early on, she sees visions of Ed's death. Being unable to differentiate if the vision is prophetic or a warning, Lorraine's entire demeanor is unsettling, until of course she begins doing what she does best.

Human connections are at the heart of humanity and Lorraine's ability to connect with young Janet in the midst of terror and tragedy gives the film its ultimate heartbeat. There's risk involved, but that risk is important.

The film works well for the majority of the first and second acts. The scares are dutifully earned. It's the third act that unravels a bit, relying too much on CGI characters and over-the-top sequences. Despite an uneven story, the aspect of faith in the film never falters, which is something of a surprise. Exorcism films and the like have a tough line to walk and The Conjuring 2 excellently balances both genre expectations and poignant ideas about spirituality.

The cinematography is impressive and the acting never falters. The script could use some work and ultimately plays the biggest foul throughout, cheapening some of the film's more quieter moments. Overall, though, director James Wan has pieced together a summer thriller with brains behind it, which sets it apart from many of its genre siblings.

Rating: R
Runtime: 2h 14 min  

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