Perhaps the only thing more unstoppable than a horror movie villain is a horror movie sequel. Since 1935’s The Bride of Frankenstein, Hollywood has proven that you can’t contain evil in only ninety minutes of celluloid. But out of the hundreds of sequels, only a handful rival their source material. Still, every now and then, lighting strikes twice…and it makes for some hair-raising cinema.
Enter The Conjuring 2, a seriously tight, seriously scary sequel that outshines its stellar predecessor. It’s smart, well-paced and tense. And it has enough jump scares to keep even jaded horror aficionados squirming.
Screenwriters Chad and Carey Hayes and Director James Wan return to the helm, after shocking the world in 2013 with the original installment in the franchise that chronicled the exploits of real-life demonologists Ed and Ann Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga). It would go on to become one of the most financially successful horror films ever, but was then surpassed…by its sequel.
The Conjuring 2 now ranks as the second-highest grossing horror movie of all time, trumped only by The Exorcist. It instantly became horror royalty, but deservedly so. It delivers nearly non-stop scares and solid, compelling performances. And it all plays out on a muted palette that not only fits the timestamp, but pays homage to the horror classics of the 70’s.
The Conjuring 2 revisits the Warrens, this time, in 1976, as they trek to jolly old England to investigate one of the most documented haunted house cases in history. The story picks up soon after the couple’s work on the infamous Amityville Horror case, which brought them into the public spotlight but made them a target for skeptics who accused them of exploitative charlatanry.
During a séance at the Amityville House, Lorraine experiences a vision of Ed’s death at the hands of a demonic nun (who Ed later dreams about) and worries that their bouts with the dark side may finally be catching up with them.
One year later, the Catholic Church recruits the Warrens to investigate a haunting in Enfield, England, where single mom Peggy Hodgson (Frances O’Conner) struggles to keep her family together amidst a series of terrifying, unexplained events. A demonic entity who once lived and died in the house wants the family out and he’ll go to murderous lengths to evict them. He begins by terrorizing Peggy’s daughter Janet (Madison Wolf), possessing her during bouts of sleepwalking.
It isn’t long before he begins speaking through her, and then develops a penchant for tossing chairs and spinning crosses upside down. Soon enough, the ghostly predator starts tormenting the rest of the Hodgsons.
The Warrens join another group of parapsychologists in the investigation, and begin to weaken the entity. The key to defeating the bullying demon, Ed tells the Hodgsons, is to stand together as a family.
But when a skeptical member of the team videos Janet faking a poltergeist-like episode, the Warrens begin to lose faith in the validity of the Hodgsons’ claims. Realizing the church will not support any further investigation in light of the deception, Ed and Lorraine abandon the case.
But the evil things are far from done with the Hodgsons and it will take a leap of faith for the Warrens to return…
Despite the pervasive demonic themes that dominates the film, The Conjuring 2 is a powerful allegory about the power of faith and the strength of family. The Warrens rely on their belief in God to exorcise otherworldly demons that sent London Police running (according to official substantiated records) and had the Hodgsons questioning their own sanity. Though the agents of the dark throw some seriously supernatural attacks at them, the Warrens overcome them by holding fast to the power of scripture and the promise of sufficient grace. Their faith in God consistently saves them, but believing in their fellow man proves to be much more of a struggle. The Hodgsons, meanwhile, are able to fall back on the love of family when all else seems to fail them. It provides them the strength to fight back; the strength to become conquerors instead of victims, even amidst their internal squabbles. Together, the Warrens and Hodgsons prove stronger than the sum of their parts, and find just enough sufficiency in their brokenness, living to fight another day.
Did someone say sequel?
The Conjuring 2 premiers on DVD/Blu-Ray on September 13 from New Line Cinema