Yes, I know, it’s another ghost story review from me. What can I say – I love them.
Directed by James Wan and starring Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson, this story is loosely based on ‘true’ events (reported events, anyway) about an incident in England in 1977, known as the Enfield haunting. I make no comment about the actual events and their truth or otherwise. Debate on the existence of ghosts is not something I feel qualified to talk about.
This movie follows Ed and Lorraine Warren, American paranormal investigators (also real people), who go to England at the request of the Catholic church to investigate the situation in a house where a single mother and her four children have reported strange occurrences. Other people who visited the house, including police officers, also witnessed occurrences such as furniture moving on its own. One of the girls seems to be possessed by some kind of demon, and the Warrens struggle to help her as well as protecting themselves from the malicious spirit.
While a lot of critics deride the over use of jump scares in horror (and quite rightly), I found this film and its predecessor ‘The Conjuring’ make good use of this particular technique. The director shies away from false jump scares (always annoying), and when we jump there is a reason for it. He also builds tension very well. The scene of the little boy encountering the demon taking on the ‘crooked man’ image from the nursery rhyme the children are familiar with, and stalking him down the hallway, is really creepy. I think what enhanced it is the fact that the creature is reciting the nursery rhyme with its own words which are not exactly wholesome (murder being mentioned quite a lot), and the slow, thumping footsteps. When the creature appears to the other children, only to be the possessed girl, it is even more unsettling. The girl encountering the old man ghost yelling at her that it’s his house is used early on as a classic jump scare, but no less creepy for that.
The acting is excellent from all the cast. Wilson and Farmiga as the Warrens do an excellent job, and each of them have great moments in the film. I especially enjoyed the climax, with Ed trapped inside the house and Lorraine, realising that the premonition of his death she has had is perilously close to coming true, finally realises how to defeat the demon and takes charge in a very powerful way. It was a great moment for both actors.
The children are excellent. Madison Wolfe as Janet Hodgson is particularly good in the role, and all the children are very convincing in their parts. The depiction of the characters’ fear feels very real.
The set design and costuming to show seventies England, Thatcher’s England, is excellent. That horrid cellar, with the water leak leaving it permanently flooded, and which no one from the council was apparently intending to fix, is a real case in point. It also highlights the fact that the family is essentially trapped in the situation by their poverty. It’s a council house, and they can’t move elsewhere unless the council gives them somewhere to move to. We hear quite early on that the mother is broke and her ex-husband is giving her nothing towards child maintenance. They don’t leave because they have nowhere to go.
I will point out a flaw – there occasionally seems to be a strange delay for others in the house to react to shouting or commotion. The mother, for example, sometimes does not react until someone screams, when they have been talking loudly or even shouting prior to this. If it comes to that, with some of the property damage going on, you would think all the neighbours would be at the door or at least outside their own doors wondering what on earth was happening. Sometimes it seems like the world’s quietest street – the family runs across the street to their friends, their friends are outside trying to help them, the police turn up, and you don’t see a single other neighbour coming out to see what’s going on. You would be forgiven for thinking that all the other houses are empty. Were they skimping on hiring extras, I wonder?
A point of interest is that the demon was originally going to be a fairly standard Hell creature with horns and so on. The director changed his mind, opting instead for a demonic nun. The intent was to illustrate the faith of the Warrens, Lorraine especially, and attack that by taking on a facade of spirituality. The demon reveal towards the end, where the Warrens work out what is actually going on, is a clever twist which I was not expecting, and I am quite impressed with the way this was a bit different than what you might expect.
So, in summary “The Conjuring 2” is a good, fun horror movie that will have you on the edge of your seat and having an exciting, spooky time. Check it out.