Reviewed by: Jack Dawson
I’ve never watched that many Horror movies, so I worry whether I in fact went into The Conjuring 2 with the wrong mindset.
See, I’d always thought that Horror movies should be scary, suspenseful and have sound design that expertly shocks the audience and fleshes out the atmosphere of the film. Yet The Conjuring 2 is none of these things, it is instead a dense romp of hilarity which never fails to elicit a laugh or disbelieving groan from the audience. But maybe that’s the point of most horror films, to be disposable fair that audiences can snark and pick to pieces en masse.
If so, then The Conjuring 2 is a wild success.
After the investigation of a house in Amityville (which would go on to inspire The Amityville Horror) which is supposedly haunted, Paranormal Investigators Lorraine and Ed Warren are catapulted into the public spotlight, where they face scepticism and scorn. Meanwhile, in England, a family is tormented by manifestations of a malevolent spirit who takes on many forms. They’re desperate for help, even desperate enough to contact the Warrens, who must come to grips with their faith in the face of overwhelming odds.
I haven’t had the chance to see the original The Conjuring (or its prequel Annabelle), which may be why I felt like a dozen plot points went miles above my head. But from what I could gather from the positive reception that The Conjuring received, part of the charm of the original film was its appreciation for horror classics such as The Exorcist and The Amityville Horror.
Perhaps I’m not well-versed enough in horror conventions, but it seems like The Conjuring 2 is more formulaic than it is reverential. Every jumpscare, every character, every dramatic beat, can be seen coming from a mile away.
That’s kind of a problem for a film that, as part of the constraints of its genre, needs to surprise audiences by subverting the expected.
As for the assertion of the film that it’s based on a true story, I am not familiar with the real life Warrens, and have no interest in learning about apparent supernatural hauntings. But I am sceptical about the truth of the events presented in the film.
That’s far from the only problem with The Conjuring 2, other flaws include dodgy cgi, the portrayal of anyone who disbelieves the Warren’s outrageous claims as bitter mediocrities, one of the worst affected stutters I’ve ever heard, and all the breaks in the horror being so unbearably cutesy that I longed for the evil spirit to finish everyone off. Seriously, the ending for this film is way too happy for a horror film, to the point where I’d almost classify this as a supernatural thriller instead.
But even worse is the sound design, which is muted and unexceptional. If there was anything that could have salvaged the dodgy cgi or the unconvincing story beats, it would have been effective sound design.
Some of the cinematography can be imaginative, and I appreciate the time taken to establish the dimensions and scope of the haunted house that The Conjuring 2 occupies. And there isn’t anything offensively awful about the characters or the story, though I did find it a little weird that the Catholic Church is presented as an ultra-rational bastion of integrity.
And while I wasn’t really convinced by any of the performances, there aren’t any truly bad actors amongst the cast, which is a small mercy.
Beyond getting into spoilers, I can’t actually talk about this film any more. Comedies and horror tend to be difficult to review, mostly because discussing story beats tends to sap the films of their impact and effectiveness. But looking back, I don’t hate The Conjuring 2, I don’t even regret the time I spent with it. It’s stupid, pretentious nonsense that’s a lot of fun to chuckle at, and I wouldn’t mind seeing it again with friends.
I wonder if I’ve been a bit too hard on The Conjuring 2, if old-school horror fans will love the tone and pacing that it presents, and sneer at my own dismissal of the film. But it’s too late now, so check it out for yourself, if nothing else you’ll have fun.