Director: James Wan
Starring: Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Madison Wolfe
Release Date: 13th June 2016 (UK)
It’s unusual for a franchise to offer a prequel before a sequel, with the exception of Star Wars, but James Wan may have pulled off a bit of a masterstroke with The Conjuring, with a film that not only signals the end of the core franchise (or at least should), but allows for an organic expansion into a world of spin-offs. All the while Wan offers a less conventional horror while sticking to his tried and tested aesthetic.
Ed and Lorraine Warren are a prolific husband and wife ghost-hunting team, called upon to investigate some of the world’s most paranormal phenomena. In The Conjuring 2 they are reluctantly taken to Enfield, despite violent premonitions from Lorraine fortelling her Husband’s death. This is where the line between fact and fiction gets significantly blurred. Though the events of the Enfield Haunting are largely incorporated, the evil Nun and other such happenings were embellished if not entirely fabricated. However, this was a film not about the haunting but the Warren’s emotional turmoil, and as both stories were set up independently and weaved together, a context had already been established to tell us this will not be historically accurate.
Now here’s the thing – The Conjuring 2 is not an outright horror, partly because James Wan is getting a lot of job offers around Hollywood and this was clearly his vehicle to challenge his own typecast with no creative barriers. Consequently we get two films meshed together in one story – the horror of the Enfield Haunting with the family drama of a couple whose careers are consuming their marriage. Though both are played out nicely, despite some truly cringe-worthy sentimentality, it’s not what the audience want, and if you are looking for a straight up scarefest then you better wait for Cabin Fever or The Shallows, or rewatch any other thing by James Wan.
At the pivot of this franchise is Patrick Wilson and his Oscar nominated co-star Vera Farmiga, bringing star value previously unknown in the genre. Naturally they are the focal point of the story, with the events at Enfield nothing more than a vehicle, a manifestation of their emotional journey. Their talents at times felt underused for two characters who should have shown a little more depth, but instead came across a tad flat, not helped by dialogue which proves their director has a way to go to master romance.
However, for fans of these films you won’t be disappointed with the same old aesthetic – lots of dark shots and lots of misdirection all climaxing with a loud noise and a sudden appearance of a demon. You know the drill by now. If you’re not bored of it already then you’ll enjoy this.
The Conjuring 2 was book-ended the core franchise, while leaving the door creaking open for the Warren’s museum to present us with an anthology of prequels and spin-offs. Though the series should be over, we probably have another ten years of spin-offs ahead of us; a scary thought in every sense…