Why is it that demons always possess wide-eyed little girls? Why not someone a bit more mobile and forceful, like Bruce Lee or a bear? Why not somebody with some influence, such as the president or a reality TV star? “The Conjuring 2” informs us that demons are bullies, and like bullies, they pick on the weak. I can buy that.
I can even buy into the continuing adventures of Ed and Lorraine Warren, paranormal crusaders bound by love. They come armed with a stash of crucifixes, which are excellent demon repellent and can also do some major damage to the cornea of a mugger, I assume. When things start going bump in the night in an England home, housing a struggling single mother and her pale children, the Warrens are called into action. The case is like any other, except the demon here is a crotchety old man who hogs the remote.
Watching the film, it’s as if someone picked up returning director, James Wan, by his legs and shook him, so that all his white rabbits and pigeons fell out of his pockets and sleeves onto the floor. The creepy, tin toys destined for garage sale purgatory, the cackling senior citizen who has absolutely nothing to laugh about and the joyless church choir sleeping through another rendition of “Silent Night” are just a few patches of the familiar ground Wan treads. Nonetheless, he does so with enough style and subtle variation to keep things interesting. At one point, the film even takes a departure from the creepy old man imagery—which is just a regular old man with yellow contacts—and gives us a fantastically weird, lanky monster donning a bowler hat and wielding an umbrella.
If nothing else, Wan has an excellent sense for framing, hiding minor shifts in reality in the oddest of places and lingering on them until the audience can locate the discrepancy. There are several scenes in which the scare is hidden, which causes scattered gasps to arise in the audience, like applause for a bad comic.
Despite being so in the first film, the relationship between the Warrens remains surprisingly sincere. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga embody the couple with such certitude that one almost forgets that their real-life counterparts were wackos. How many films, horror or otherwise, will allow everything to come to a halt so that one of its stars can play “Can’t Help Falling in Love” in his best Elvis? Not many.
“The Conjuring 2” is more of the same inherently silly, jump-scare fodder, yet treated with an undue amount of care and precision. I can almost imagine the film without the “booga booga booga” moments, focusing entirely on the Warrens as they cope with the mental strain of their past adventures. Or maybe you coat Wilson and Farmiga in old age makeup and have them waltzing in an insane asylum.
2.5 out of 5 stars