Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Movie Review: The Conjuring 2 (2016)

The Conjuring 2 is an excellent film that grounds its horror in human bonds. Like its predecessor, its emotional weight is carried by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga's portrayal of Ed and Lorraine Warren, paranormal investigators. Strong supporting actors, stunning cinematography, and judicious use of CGI are also outstanding features.

The movie is based on the Enfield Poltergeist, where a family experiences frightening events: moving furniture, sinister voices, etc. As with the original Conjuring, the buildup to the actual haunting is well-paced; viewers have time to get to know single mum Peggy Hodgson (Frances O'Connor) and 11-year-old Janet (Madison Wolfe), who is the channel for the disturbances. There are three other kids in the house, which is dilapidated and badly in need of care and attention--much like its residents. The dark presence is initially felt in small doses: a sleepwalking Janet, a fire truck pushed back at youngest son Billy.

When the ghost finally makes its presence known, it's unambiguous: every single member of the family watches a heavy dresser hurtle across the room to slam Janet's bedroom door shut. When the police arrive to investigate, a chair slides across the floor. In the midst of the media firestorm, the Warrens arrive, sent by the church to confirm if it's real or a hoax. But not before a nun-demon -- a demonun? -- scares the bejeesus out of Lorraine and prompts her to beg Ed to be extra careful.

Let's talk about girlfriend for a second, because she/it is responsible for 90% of the film's actual scares. This is a testament to the editing and camera work, not just the Marilyn Manson makeup. Demonun appears three times: during a flashback (see pic above), in the Warren's home, and then at the finale. True, in the Warren home scene, the hideous seventies wallpaper was much more terrifying than the specter. But then the demonun traps Lorraine in the home office, which is adorned with a painting of -- what else? -- demonun! as well as the suicide scene from the first Conjuring. The camera tracks back and forth between the two horrific paintings and Lorraine's increasing panic. You can feel the dread mounting in the theater, punctuated by cries of "No, girl!" and "Run!" and just plain "NOOOOOOO!!!!"

The final act had me curled up in a ball in my seat, because Ed's death has been foreshadowed, and there was a damn good chance it could happen, and I cared. I cared because Patrick Wilson sold his character as a studly self-sacrificing manly man -- helped immeasurably by a fantastic Elvis impersonation in one of the film's most tender scenes -- and Vera Farmiga absolutely nailed it as his adoring wife and partner in all things. She's the brains, he's the brawn, so he charges into danger while she thinks up the solution, and through it all they just love each other so much that you don't want anything bad to happen to either of them. *sniffle*

Anyway, the point is, be sure to ask any demons you encounter what their name is, and write it down! Lorraine is not just another pretty face!

Apart from the Warrens, the Hodgson family is also sympathetic, petrified at first and then eventually overcoming their fear and acting on their determination to stand together in support of poor Janet. Peggy, mum to the core, is with Janet throughout her ordeal, even sleeping with her alone in the house to keep everyone else safe.

In the end, the bonds within the film -- bonds between family, and between strangers who face danger together -- elevate The Conjuring 2 beyond typical scary flicks. That, and demonun.

TL;DR: A terrifying treat for the horror aficionado.

This post brought to you by lunchtime!