Saturday 18 June 2016

Review: The Conjuring 2

The Conjuring 2
Cert: 15 / 134 mins / Dir. James Wan / Trailer

"I don't know what's worse," Franka Potente's sceptical parapsychologist Anita opines in a moment of second-act downtime, "the demons, or the people who prey on our willingness to believe in them". It's a brief moment when James Wan's horror threequel lays itself bare, and the more cynical viewers in the audience will raise an eyebrow and mouth a silent "...well, quite". Like so many other movies in its genre, The Conjuring 2's dramatic impact relies almost entirely on the unwavering belief of its audience; not least because the opening titles feature those dreaded words 'based on the true story'*1...

So, based on the already well-documented case of The Enfield Poltergeist, psychic investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren cross the Atlantic at the request of the church to try and uncover the truth (if any) about mysterious happenings in north London*2 (represented in its 1977 era by a wardrobe of man-made fibres, a desaturated colour palette and afternoon showings of The Goodies*3).

On the plus side, the film works in a purely nuts-and-bolts way, aided massively by the performances of Vera Farmiga and the younger members of the cast. James Wan makes a solid job of expanding the relationship between Ed and Lorraine Warren, and there are some nicely un-nerving moments in the first half hour. But these are all achieved by actual acting, rather than the jump-scares and general silliness which the screenplay then autopilots into. Because if there's any real tension at all, it only comes when the soundtrack drops to the point where you can hear the faint hiss of the auditorium speakers, and you involuntarily start counting the heartbeats to the inevitable BANG.

As much as Wan clearly enjoys playing in Seventies London, he can't resist the urge to fall back on his tried and tested tricks. With its multi-layered possession, haunting of people (rather than places, exclusively) and a box-ticking goodie-bag of spectral tropes, the film is arguably more a spiritual sequel to Insidious 2 than it is The Conjuring (and certainly feels more in keeping than Insidious 3).

The Conjuring 2 has some interesting facets and is far from a bad movie, but it's still a worryingly generic addition from someone who can and should give us better. In much the same way as the upcoming Independence Day and Central Intelligence flicks will contribute to sci-fi and comedy respectively, this film is fine for a mainstream audience, but there'll be little here for the hardened genre-fiend…

So, watch this if you enjoyed?
Oh, the others.
Not The Others, I just mean other films like this.
Basically anything with James Wan's name on the front, for a start

Should you watch this in a cinema, though?
Only if you want your jump-shot especially loud.

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
I suppose it probably does, to be fair.

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
Not particularly.
(although again, massive props to the younger members of the cast for taking the silliness so seriously)

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
Probably not.

Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
Definitely not.

Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 1: The Conjuring 2 features the voice-work of Robin Atkin Downes, who's also worked on Star Wars Rebels, Clone Wars, Star Tours, Empire At War, KOTOR, KOTOR 2, The Old Republic, Rogue Squadron 3, Bounty Hunter… oh he's connected, alright.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 Which, as in the majority of these cases, appears to mean "it's true that someone once told this story". Although this retelling even takes artistic licence with that.

*2 And it's good to see that the Warrens spring into action a full minute and a half after people start screaming immediately outside of the room they're sleeping in, ostensibly to be 'on hand' should anything go awry in the night...

*3 UK TV historians, please help me out on this one. I was only four in 1977, but I don't remember The Goodies being repeated in the afternoon. There were only three channels back then, and broadcast 'real estate' was a bit more precious at least. I don't even know why this slightly anachronistic point should bother me so much when the rest of the film is clearly ficitious, then again I'm not the one plastering the words "true story" over the top of it to put bums on seats. To be honest, the most alarming thing I noticed was the apparently TARDIS-like disparity between the external and internal shots of the house.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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