<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by James Wan. Starring Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Frances O’Connor, Madison Wolfe, Lauren Esposito, Patrick McAuley, Benjamin Haigh, Sterling Jerins, Simon McBurney
Running time: 2 hours 13 minutes
Scary movies have disappointed the hell out of me over the last few years, especially all those crappy little formula ones from Bloom House Productions. But here’s a ghost story with lots of thrills and chills that’ll keep you riveted not with cheap jump tactics but with an interesting story, well-told and beautifully shot.
I vaguely remember the first Conjuring film and the typical story of the haunted house and the doll and all the tropes that horror films use being thrown out at the audience diligently. So I wasn’t too keen on Conjuring 2 even with the gimmicky warning about it being so scary. I was pleasantly surprised with this one though.
I also think the fact the story is based in England in the 1970s has something to do with the appeal. It’s not American and so it has something different about it. The dull and dreary weather in London, the dilapidated Council housing at the time and the Brit humour and accent all add to the character of the film.
Sure it’s about a house that’s haunted but it’s more than that. It’s about the Warrens: Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) and Ed (Patrick Wilson) who are recovering from the whole Amityville incident. They’re still being haunted by a mysterious demon nun who wants them dead. But the devout Christians they are they agree to fly to London where the Hodgson family are being terrorised by the spirit of an old man who refuses to leave the house.
Peggy Hodgson (Frances O’Connor) is terrified for her daughter Janet (Madison Wolfe) who is now possessed by some unknown force that makes their life a living hell. Sceptics and believers converge on their house to bear witness to the Poltergeist-like activity. But what’s great about the film is there is an overriding sense of foreboding for the Warren’s whose lives are also in danger.
James Wan has shot the film effectively without any of the usual tricks of the trade that we’re so used to in haunted house movies. There’s freshness about it and an eerie beauty in the scenes that’s almost magical. There’s also some wry humour – even from the demon nun – who uses a portrait of itself to scare poor Lorraine Warren in a scene that gives you goose bumps at the same time as it makes you laugh. In fact, the audience did laugh out of fright many times, which is a sign that the film is working on the level it should be.
The love between the Warrens and the love of a mother for her children is palpable. Frances O’Connor doesn’t have a huge role but she mixes fear and wit with equal dexterity in her role as the protective but helpless mother. Farmiga and Wilson are great at portraying a loving and devout couple that must balance their belief in the paranormal with a healthy curiosity and caution for those who may just be out to get some publicity.
There are some truly creepy scenes in The Conjuring 2 set against some superbly spooky set design and cinematography.