Movie Reviews: "The Conjuring 2" Has A Hair-Raising Atmosphere

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If you want an in-your-face horror flick, this is it!

2013's The Conjuring was an effective and well-crafted horror flick, drawing influence from the best of the haunted house and demonic possession genres. This year's The Conjuring 2 doesn't quite match its predecessor's greatness, but skilled director James Wan still makes sure to scare your socks off.

Not taking long at all to ramp up, the story opens amidst the infamous Amityville hauntings, where we see Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) return as dedicated paranormal investigators. It's an intense sequence, so much so that the scenes of ghastly nuns and prophetic visions of death mess up the married couple so bad that they vow to never take on another case. So you know what that means? They take on another case.

Across the pond to London, England (cue The Clash's "London Calling"), we meet Peggy Hodgson (Frances O'Connor), a mother of four living in a rundown property in Enfield. One night, the kids break out a Ouija board and unknowingly awaken a malevolent poltergeist spirit. Toys begin acting up on their own, sinister voices growl from the youngest daughter's mouth (that's never a good sign), and a creepy old man lurks in the shadows (also never a good sign). The Warrens eventually show up in an attempt to help, and things get real crazy.

The film proficiently imposes a hair-raising atmosphere with its minimal use of light and its tiptoeing camerawork, which provides some unnerving views around corners and through foreboding hallways. The crashes and bangs are abrupt and amplified—to the point where the rumbling spills over into the movie theater. And there's the rain. It's always raining. James Wan also brings out what I call the 'no mercy' jump scares—the type of jolts that make your feet kick up and cause audible gasps (and possibly a few expletives). Kudos to the cast as well, who are impressively convincing the whole way. Without such solid performances, a film like this would surely suffer.

There's only one major issue that bugged me, and I can't go into too much detail because it's a moment that comes late in the game, but it has to do with a clumsy plot point and some questionable character inconsistencies. Thankfully, this falter doesn't diminish the primary thrills.

The Conjuring 2 is not a film of subtleties, so audiences who prefer the less-is-more approach in horror might be turned off by the jarring leaps and onslaught of supernatural terrors. It tosses everything but the kitchen sink at you. Seriously, there's furniture flying all over the place! A few different ghouls are stuffed into the story, which leads me to believe that at least one of them might get their own spin-off, like the Annabelle doll did from The Conjuring (my bet is on "The Crooked Man"). But if you're willing to submit to the madness of this midsummer fright fest, you might feel the need to dive into a pool of holy water after you exit the theater.