Sequels often mean cash grabs with little to no thought about how or why a sequel is even necessary. Story is usually the last thing a studio cares about when it comes to a second installment of a profitable franchise. A prime example of this is The Conjuring spinoff Annabelle which was anything but stellar. In fact I would say it was downright garbage so of course Annabelle 2 is on its way. Annabelle proves that money still dictates what gets made, what becomes a success and unfortunately what falls by the wayside. But every now and then something thankfully and mercifully slips through and proves just how much potential the horror genre really possesses (pun). The Conjuring was a practice in traditional horror but undoubtedly executed with masterful precision. It is a taut, tension-filled haunted house thriller with a standalone story that was self-contained but held so many possibilities for future demon expelling with The Warrens. This brings us to The Conjuring 2.
The horror sequel… Usually far worse than its normally awful predecessor, The Conjuring 2 took everything that made the first so wonderfully scary and expanded upon it making for one the best horror sequels of recent memory.
James Wan is my favorite horror director for many reasons but one of his greatest talents (in my opinion) is his consistency from project to project. Saw jump started a subgenre of horror that spawned one of the most profitable franchises in horror movie history and from there nearly every horror project that he has helmed has been at the very least better than average. Despite containing elements that are in numerous other films he is able to take what we know and put an entirely new, fresh take on them creating something original and well beyond most modern attempts at horror. Using techniques that are seemingly deemed out of date by other filmmakers of the genre he brings a sense of realism despite the fantastical events taking place. Captured in camera is always authentic and while not always feasible, when it is, makes the entire experience palpable.
The characters in The Conjuring 2 are real people with extraordinary problems. Of course a major focal point of any horror film, good or bad, is to be scary (no shit, Sherlock) but where most begin to fall apart is with the characters. Most of the time they don’t matter; they are shells thrown into odd situations meant to make the audience jump, scream, giggle, and feign real horror. If a character doesn’t matter than their safety does not either. We as the audience must care about something or in this case someone who is being put through the wringer. The characters of The Conjuring 2 have purpose here, they are relatable, down to earth people who do what anyone of us would do if something like this were possible. It is so refreshing to not only understand these characters but to root for them. You hope that things work out and their heroes live up to their reputation.
As I said, I am a big fan of Wan so I may be bias but horror tricks and great acting and storytelling aside, The Conjuring 2 is replete with beautiful cinematography and as it showcased this within the first ten minutes I knew I was in for something special. Long takes with handheld cameras give this an organic feel as if we are there in danger of being attacked by the ghostly remnants of a demonic evil. Smooth crane shots cradle us in and out of the haunted house almost as if in those moments we have transitioned from haunting victim to the haunter itself freely sailing from room to room with no need for doors to pass through. There is a playfulness to the camera work and it makes for truly frightening moments and quite simply some inspiring takes that any true fan of film will notice and most certainly appreciate.
The Conjuring 2 is the rare occasion that a mainstream film of this particular genre is not only made for a mass audience but it strives to be better than the rest even if its formula at times is anything but original. The lack of originality in no way hurts the film and I believe this is where Wan and his team’s true brilliance shines through. They know you’ve seen it so why not polish the rough edges and in some cases take what you know and flip it upside down in favor of surprises you may not see coming all because you “knew” what was coming. There is a mixture of actually knowing what’s about to happen and one hell of a shock and it’s this orderly chaos that strengthens the film’s overall product. You never quite know exactly what’s around the corner.
Phenomenal and horror are two words I don’t normally piece together unless it includes the words “aren’t” or “isn’t” or some variation of being a bad movie. Another word I am realizing is an apt description for this film is rare because The Conjuring 2 is phenomenal. It took every expectation I had and surpassed it making this my favorite horror film of 2016 (so far) and one of my favorite horror films, period. Genuinely scary and coherent storytelling takes it a step above the rest from the jolting beginning to the satisfying conclusion. The Warrens are back and better than ever, I am happy to say.
Rated R For: terror and horror violence
Runtime: 134 minutes
After Credits Scene: No
Starring: Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Madison Wolfe, Frances O’Connor, Simon McBurney
Directed By: James Wan
Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 5/ Acting: 4.5/ Directing: 5/ Visuals: 5
OVERALL: 5 Nerdskulls
Check out the trailer below:
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