The Conjuring 2 tackles head on questions that hound nearly every supernatural horror movie:
-Why doesn’t the family just leave when they relize their house is haunted? (They do, immediately and hilariously. Plus, they are at the mercy of public housing.)
-How can only a few characters recognize the haunting when it is so often so obvious? (Little time is wasted with keeping anyone in the dark, and any skepticism that exists serves a purpose.)
-How do you make a horror sequel that still manages to surprise without alienating your audience? (Keep the same tone, while changing the nature of the beast.)
The next ghost hunting tale from the files of Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) leaves Rhode Island behind for London. The thick-as-fog Enfield accents are impenetrable, but essential for pinpointing a sense of place and establishing The Conjuring 2 as its own thing. That sense of particularity serves the film well, especially when it seems to give away all of its tricks less than halfway through. This story could wrap up quite tidily, with the Warrens swooping in to exorcise the house and then promptly moving on their merry way. There is, after all, a whiff of “been there, done that,” with the character designs and demonic motivations quite similar to both the first film and director James Wan’s other supernatural horror series. But wisely, with a nagging sense that there is something else going on, there is a carrot stick promising further mysterious resolution. The ultimate twist is not mind-blowing, but it is far from insulting, and it is in keeping with this series’ m.o. of tension-building and catharsis.
There is also a goopy heart at the center of both Conjuring movies that make them a lot (legitimately) sweeter than any other horror movie. One may quibble with the real-life legitimacy of the Warrens’ methods, but the strength of their marriage is not up for debate. Their flirtatiousness is family-friendly, but playfully passionate. Farmiga and Wilson bring a lot of soul and verve to their performances; even though they are dealing with the wildest of life-and-death situations, they never lose their tenderness or their senses of humor. In conclusion: this is a perfectly scary horror movie that makes time for Patrick Wilson’s uncanny Elvis impression, and it plays that moment completely straight.
I give The Conjuring 2 10 Real Scares out of 8 Fake Out Scares That Turn Into Real Scares.
One more thing: Like the original, The Conjuring 2 is rated R essentially for how scary it is, which is kind of ridiculous. There is no sex, no gore (other than a few cuts and scrapes), and no naughty words. A legitimate case could be made for a mere PG.