Thursday, June 9, 2016

Review: "The Conjuring 2"

In the real life 1970s, Lorraine and Ed Warren were a dowdy, middle-aged couple with double chins and dreams of being immortalized on film for their paranormal investigations, which they claim ran over 10,000 cases. They finally got their wish in 2013 with “The Conjuring,” a huge horror hit … which could mean there are at least 9,999 sequels to come.

Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson return as the Warrens, and they’re a nice break from the kooky sorts who usually inhabit possession movies. They’re pretty normal people of Christian faith who happen to work – often on behalf of the Catholic Church – to sniff out if reports of unusual activities are hoaxes or not.

Wilson plays Ed as a pure-hearted square, the sort of guy who fixes faucets at the houses he’s exorcising and imitates Elvis on the guitar just to calm some very scared kids. He’s kind of stiff and diffident, but there’s no mistaking his good intentions.

Lorraine is the talent, having the power to sense evil forces and communicate with wayward spirits. Despite her supernatural abilities, she’s the more grounded of the two.

After having a particularly rough outing in the 1976 Amityville case, the Warrens are taking a break from active investigations. It seems the spook followed them home, taking the form of Marilyn Manson in a nun’s habit. Well, not actually Manson, but a dead ringer. Then the Enfield case breaks near London, and they’re back on the hunt.

It seems the spirit of a nasty old man named Bill Wilkins (Bob Adrian) is reluctant to leave the shabby row house he once occupied. Peggy Hodgson (Frances O’Connor) and her four kids live there now, and soon start hearing the old thump-thump in the night – which soon turns into more terrifying incidents.

After initially going after young Billy (Benjamin Haigh), a shy lad with a stutter, the spirit focuses its intentions on Janet (Madison Wolfe), age 11. Even though we’ve seen it a hundred times, it’s still creepy as all get out when a little girl speaks with a ghost’s croaking moan. Then comes flying furniture, apparitions, possessed toys, etc.

Some local experts – Franka Potente plays Anita Gregory – have already dismissed the case as ventriloquism and clever tricks, though Maurice Grosse (Simon McBurney) is a kindly scientist with a receptive ear. The Warrens come in late in the game, just as the Wilkins spirit kicks things into high gear.

The movie takes a while to get going – it could easily stand to be 20 minutes shorter – but director James Wan, who co-wrote the script with four others, is adept at stirring the pot of anxiety. He’ll build the tension for a long moment, then have something jump out at the audience from somewhere we didn’t expect.

As horror sequels go, “The Conjuring” scares up enough to entertain us.

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